In uncertain times, the cost of living is something that affects us all – and in cities around Australia, things only seem to be getting pricier. From energy bills to groceries, our daily expenses stack up pretty quickly, and can make saving seem like an impossible goal (let alone paying off a mortgage).
While we’re not pretending it’s easy to balance a household budget, there are a few ways you can get your spending under control and take the sting out of everyday costs. Here are our top five tips.
1. Keep your mind on the money
It’s not just a lyric from a Tina Turner song, it’s also a very practical way to start getting your head around your budget. Often we overspend because we’re not conscious of the purchases we’re making, or how they add up – so when you’re whipping that budget into shape, the first thing to do is keep a diary of everything you’re spending. A word of warning: this probably won’t be fun, and you may be tempted not to record every cent! But by being honest, and thorough, you can see where your money is actually going. From there it’ll be easier to work out what ‘non-essentials’ you can cut back on.
It’s also helpful to have easy access to your balance, so you can check it before making purchases. ING’s app makes this super easy to do.
2. Shop around
Paying bills isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but it’s a fact of life. And by putting a bit of effort into choosing your service providers, you could actually make easy ongoing savings in the long run. Do a comparison on your gas and electricity providers (okay, it does involve looking at those boring little figures, but trust us: it’s worth knowing what rates you’re paying). Similarly, there’s usually a fair bit of choice when it comes to phone, internet and insurance providers, so ask what deals they can offer (especially if you’ve been a long-standing customer and have paid your bills on time). Unfortunately, these days, we often only get what we demand, so it really does pay to ask.
3. Think before you drive
Unless you really rely on it (like if you live in a remote area, or need to play taxi driver to your kids), using your car may not be worth it. As well as the expense of maintaining a vehicle, don’t forget you’re paying for fuel and tolls too. Cycling could save you a fair bit – and hey, you could even eliminate the need for that gym membership or online workout program. And if you’re living somewhere where it’s convenient (and social-distancing-friendly), opting for public transport can make a big difference to your bottom line.
4. Get your supermarket strategy down
We all have to eat, but contrary to popular belief, we don’t have to spend megabucks at the supermarket – whether in person or online. With a bit of careful planning, you can not only save time, but you can minimise food waste and make your food budget stretch further. We recommend spending a bit of time each week working out your menu for the week ahead, then doing one big food shop (buying in bulk where you can, and freezing things that won’t keep).
5. Turn trash to treasure
De-cluttering isn’t just good for the soul, it can be great for the budget! If you’re surrounded by stuff that you don’t need or use (Is that exercise bike gathering dust in the garage? How about those wedding gifts you’ve never taken out of the box?), why not make the most of it and have a clear-out. You can find a new home for your pre-loved goods on sites like Gumtree or Freecycle, or get involved in initiatives like Garage Sale Trail. It’s worth checking these sites when you actually need things, too – after all, why buy new when you can recycle?