Household bills and interest rates are the two biggest targets for Australians wanting to save every dollar they can amid COVID-19’s financial crunch.
Reduced incomes are sharpening people’s focus on saving money, and money specialists say some of the best strategies are simple.
Barefoot Investor Scott Pape said people should never pay ATM fees and should aim to pay off credit cards quickly to give themselves an instant 20 per cent return by avoiding high interest rates.
Financial Counselling Australia chief executive Fiona Guthrie said people paying credit card interest should seek one with a lower rate. “And make a plan to pay that off,” she said.
Finance commentator David Koch’s top tip is to negotiate with banks, insurance companies and other bill providers for savings.
“Go to some of the comparison websites to benchmark your loans and policies and use that information to get a better deal,” he said.
Author and Canstar spokeswoman Effie Zahos said people should cut back on luxuries then target savings on their essential bills.
“Even though some might seem small on their own, together they can have an enormous impact,” she said.
AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said anyone who had not spoken with their bank for a year would probably get a lower interest rate if they made the phone call.
“They don’t want to lose your business,” he said.
Saving money also means minimising losses, and CMC Markets and Stockbroking chief market analyst Michael McCarthy said that meant not letting short-term financial crashes distract you from longer term planning.
“Keeping an eye on the long term is important,” he said.
Mr McCarthy has noticed savings at his own home during the virus lockdown, mainly on food.
“I’ve never cooked so many meals,” he said.
“At one stage I had 23 meals cooked at home in a row – that’s a personal best for me.”
Mother-of-two Julia Kloszynski, 40, husband Jason, 44, and their two children Zara, 10, and Ryan, 8, are saving hundreds of dollars a week during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am only going to the supermarket once a week instead of every day and I’m spending about $350 a week instead of up to $70 per day,” she said.
“We have also planted herbs in our garden and we are saving money by not buying lunches and coffees.”
The family recently refinanced their home loan to save and they are also spending less on diesel for their car since the stay-at-home restrictions were introduced.
TOP 100 WAYS TO SAVE MONEY RIGHT NOW
1. Check the supply and energy usage charges on your bill and compare online using government energy comparison websites such as energymadeeasy.gov.au.
2. Use natural sunlight to help warm your home wherever possible.
3. Only use certain appliances when they are full, for instance when the dishwasher is full of crockery and cutlery or when you have a full load of washing.
4. Use door snakes to reduce the flow of cold air through the home.
5. Use blinds and curtains wisely – they can help keep the place warm or cool depending on where you live.
6. Use energy during off-peak times to reduce your charges.
7. Wear appropriate clothing so you are not wasting money on energy trying to warm up or cool down.
8. Examine how much money you could save by installing solar panels – but be wary of battery storage, which is still expensive.
9. Turn off appliances at the wall – the cost of standby energy can be $100 a year.
10. Set your heat to 18-20°C – each degree over 20°C uses around 10 per cent more energy.
PHONES AND INTERNET
11. Check your mobile phone contract if you haven’t for a while – the cost of data has been dropping significantly.
12. Use comparison websites such as whistleout.com.au to get an idea of what phone and internet companies are offering.
13. Look at buying a second-hand device and getting a SIM-only plan to go with it.
14. Buying a new phone outright is often cheaper than paying it off over a lengthy phone contract.
15. Consider smaller brands outside of the big three telco companies as they often have cheaper no-frills deals.
16. You don’t have to stick with Apple iPhones. Cheaper products can still be high quality.
17. Compare internet plans online and don’t think you must lock into a contract to get the best deals.
18. Smaller, relatively unknown internet providers offer cheaper prices and no lock-in contracts, so if you’re not happy you can easily switch.
19. If you have the NBN don’t automatically choose the top NBN100 plans, as you may get by comfortably with a slower, cheaper option.
20. Sell any unwanted phone devices you have lying around the home.
21. Always go shopping with a list to reduce the chance of impulse buying.
22. Try to do one large shop once a week – rather than lots of small shops where you are constantly tempted to overspend.
23. Check the unit price of an item as the supermarket – it’s marked on the shelf under the product – to ensure you’re getting the best value for money.
24. Buy products in bulk where you can, but only if you can avoid wastage.
25. Research prices of goods online and be prepared to haggle when instore – most retailers will match or beat a competitor’s price.
26. Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
27. Try to shop alone so there’s no-one else who can throw items in the trolley.
28. Look for heavily-discounted goods racks to pick up a few bargains.
29. Buy frozen vegetables: they are a great thing to have to whip up a meal if you are out of fresh produce.
30. Optimise specials and when there is a discount buy the product instead of waiting until you actually need it.
31. Do your sums on the cost of private health cover versus penalty taxes. You may be better off paying the premiums if your income means you have to pay extra tax.
32. Do you really need extras cover? Check what benefit extras has given you over the past year.
33. Consider increasing your excess on hospital cover to lower your overall premium.
34. Ask your health fund for a full list of extra benefits it provides. You may get discounts for things such as gym memberships.
35. If you have extras cover, make use any of the included benefits such as free dental checks.
36. Reconsider money you were previously spending on expensive gym memberships – if you’re staying strong and healthy without them you might not need them.
37. It’s a similar story with health supplements – if you’ve stopped taking a pile of pills while in lockdown, reconsider your need to buy more.
38. Remember that the cheapest form of exercise – walking – is completely free.
39. See if you can get an additional discount on your private health insurance by paying using direct debit or in advance.
40. Health and fitness advice is abundantly available on free online tutorials and videos. Why pay when you don’t need to?
41. Check your interest rate: if you are paying more than 3 per cent and you’re an owner occupier you are paying too much.
42. If possible, make additional repayments.
43. Pay weekly or fortnightly, not monthly. It will reduce your overall interest costs.
44. Offset accounts can be a way to save if you have at least $10,000 in savings in the account.
45. Consider fixing your loan. Some three-year fixed rate deals are as low as 2.09 per cent.
46. It might be worth refinancing your loan. Use a mortgage broker if you don’t think you can do it yourself.
47. If you are paying an annual fee ask your bank to waive it.
48. Ring your bank at least once a year to ask for an interest rate review.
49. Consider banking with a smaller lender other than the big four, as they often have cheaper deals.
50. If a coronavirus-related income crunch is causing you stress, don’t be afraid to ask your bank for a six-month repayment holidays. Money can then be diverted to higher-interest debts to deliver instant savings.
51. Consider paying with debit instead of credit.
52. If you can’t pay off your card in full each month look at switching to a low-rate credit card.
53. There’s plenty of no annual fee cards on the market. This can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
54. Do everything you can to avoid having credit card debt lingering at the end of each month. At an average 20 per cent interest rate, this debt destroys wealth.
55. If you have cash in savings accounts or a mortgage offset account, considering switching it to the card debt. Why earn 2-4 per cent interest on money when you can use it to save 20 per cent?
56. Consider switching to a zero interest balance transfer credit card but don’t then load up on more debt.
57. If you have persistent debt on a rewards credit card, ditch the rewards and switch to a low rate card – the rewards never outweigh the high interest costs.
58. If used wisely, credit card reward programs linked to airlines (only Qantas right now) can save you money through benefits that outweigh the cost of the card.
59. Look for a card with the most amount of interest-free days if you need more time to pay off your debt each month.
60. Reduce your credit limit to minimise the temptation to spend.
61. Don’t leave spare cash sitting in savings accounts when it can work harder if it’s offset against your loans.
62. Compare insurance costs online for your car, home and other assets: the price differences in premiums can be huge.
63. Ring your insurance company and ask them to give you the same deal they offer new customers.
64. Never auto-renew insurance policies as you’ll like get stung.
65. Consider lay up insurance cover for assets such as boats or caravans that are not in use – premiums are cheaper during the lay up period.
66. Super fund balances have been crunched, but panicking and switching to a conservative asset mix now will only lock in your losses.
67. If you have stand-alone life insurance, consider replacing it with insurance inside super where premiums don’t hit your hip pocket.
68. Be patient with your investments and super – taking a long-term view of financial markets’ ups and downs will save you plenty of money over time.
69. Property investors can request six-month repayment holidays to divert their money to higher-interest short-term debt that costs more to hold.
70. Real estate investors should always consider a depreciation schedule for their property – the tax savings can run into thousands.
71. Check petrol prices using comparison websites and apps – the price difference at outlets in several cities can be more than 40c a litre.
72. Avoid buying fuel at retailers in the most convenient locations – they usually have the highest prices.
73. Don’t take short trips because engines can consume 20 per cent more petrol when cold.
74. If your city has petrol price cycles keep an eye on them using the accc.gov.au website to ensure you don’t end up wasting money.
75. Reduce your vehicle’s fuel consumption by making sure the tyres are properly inflated and you don’t accelerate and brake harshly.
76. Remove any heavy equipment from your car that you don’t need to reduce fuel consumption. Golf clubs and tool boxes are examples.
77. Pay car insurance premiums annually rather than monthly to avoid extra administration charges.
78. Don’t feel locked into your car dealer’s servicing department. Other mechanics can do warranty services and repairs at cheaper prices.
79. Hand wash your car at home instead of going to a car wash. .
80. If you are looking to buy a vehicle, consider second-hand. Big savings can be made.
81. Instead of buying new books consider loaning them from your local library.
82. Look for vouchers when dining out. The Entertainment Book still exists but has migrated online.
83. Do a subscription check on your online music and movie apps: are you paying for a service you’ve forgotten about?
84. Instead of spending money on new games and toys, bring out old boardgames for some free retro family entertainment. Twister, anyone?
85. The boardgame Monopoly is still viewed by finance experts as a great way to teach children about money, debt and building wealth.
86. It can be tempting to buy new-release movies to download from online stores such as iTunes for more than $20 each, but if you’re only going to watch them once rent them from these services for a fraction of the price.
87. When concerts and other events resume, only pay for the shows you really want to see – and don’t let peer pressure force you to fork out hundreds of dollars you don’t need to.
88. Got a classic collection of movies still on DVD? Create a list and share among friends who also have collections.
89. Rather than buying more video games, encourage children to make their own using free lessons from codecampworld.com
90. If you are buying alcohol while in isolation hunt for specials. Liquor sales are booming and so stores are rolling out enticing deals.
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91. Ensure you are receiving all the government COVID-19 assistance packages you’re entitled to. There’s a pile of new ones out there right now.
92. Make your own presents. Mother’s Day is just a week away and mums everywhere appreciate the thought that goes into handmade gifts.
93. Cut out one family takeaway meal a week, and potentially save well over $1000 a year.
94. Plant fruit or vegetables in your backyard or in pots on your balcony to cut the cost of buying fresh produce.
95. When cooking, make bigger serves so leftovers can be frozen and used for other meals later.
96. Spend a few minutes making your own lunch and save about $50 a week.
97. Arts and crafts can be a cheap or free way to keep kids busy and off their screens. Create a joint family work of art.
98. Put money refunded from cancelled holidays and concerts into something constructive such as your mortgage or superannuation, and the savings will stack up.
99. Kids grow quickly so don’t be afraid to hand over second-hand uniforms to younger siblings. Most won’t mind.
100. While in isolation, spend a few hours going through six or 12 months of bank or credit card statements. Spot forgotten direct debits, unnecessary spending and opportunities to save.
Originally published as Have you tried these 100 ways to make more cash?
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