Inside Out (Australia)
A finance action plan to help you save for your housing move or renovation
Looking to renovate or buy a new home? Our fifinance action plan is packed with advice to help you save – fast
Your family’s growing and it’s decision time: you either need to renovate, or sell and buy a home that better suits your needs. While these are both exciting options, the boring bits – assessing where you’re at financially and overhauling your outgoings – need to come first, say experts.
“When you’re looking to save money for a big goal like a renovation or a new home, there are a lot of savings to be had if you don’t leave your money on autopilot,” says Natasha Janssens, an accountant, mortgage broker, financial planner and founder of online financial advice community Women With Cents (womenwithcents.com.au). “It’s about budgeting better, looking at where you can cut back to create extra cash flow, changing some of your emotional spending habits and shopping around on all your bills. Doing all that can mean thousands in savings for you.”
your action plan STEP 1: BARGAIN FOR A BETTER MORTGAGE
Mortgage stress is nothing new. Research from Finder.com.au shows that 30 per cent of Australians experience it, while a Lendi (lendi.com.au) study found only 41 per cent of mortgage holders have tried to nab a better deal with their bank. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, says David Hyman, Lendi’s co-founder and managing director.
“If you have more than 20 per cent equity, you can switch lenders very easily and banks know this, so use it to your advantage,” he says. “Asking is surprisingly easy if you come to the conversation feeling confident and prepared about the rates other lenders will offffer you.”
To find this out, you can plug your loan size and property value into a platform such as Lendi to get a snapshot of the best rates out there, and ask your bank to match them. If your bank won’t play ball, talk to a home loan specialist about refinancing, says David.
“This is where people can make really significant long-term savings. Also, if you’re saving to renovate, refinancing to a better interest rate in the early planning stages means you can boost your savings plan significantly. Be smart and keep your reno funds in an offffset account, alongside the additional savings you’re making on your interest repayments.”
If you’re selling your home to buy a new one, be aware your existing mortgage won’t transfer to the new property – it’s seen as a new transaction/application, says Natasha. “But you should be working now to build up equity in your existing home – with over 20 per cent equity, you can avoid paying lenders mortgage insurance, which can save you thousands. Paying bills on time to protect your credit score, having a 20 per cent deposit and stable employment history can also add up to a greater choice of lenders and competitive interest rates [on that new mortgage].”
STEP 2: COMMIT TO A ROCK-SOLID BUDGET
Maybe your eyes glaze over at the thought of creating a budget or going through all your expenses to see where your money’s going. But you can’t get into a better financial position and save more without a clear picture of where you’re at now, says Natasha.
“Our minds play tricks on us and seeing how much you’re spending can give you an idea of where you can cut back,” she says. “You might only think you spend say, $200 a week on groceries, forgetting your habit of running into the supermarket every day to pick up this or that. So you need to start by going through the last two months’ bank statements – do it on a Friday night with a glass of wine to make it a bit less painful.”
STEP 3: SHOP AROUND FOR CHEAPER BILLS
You can whinge all you like about utilities going up, but the truth is, service providers rely on consumer inertia – also dubbed the ‘lazy tax’. So what should we be doing? Bargaining for a better deal, says Natasha.
“Shopping around annually for your utilities can save you thousands of dollars,” she says. “You need to be willing to make the call and walk away if your provider won’t meet you halfway. It’s also about how you negotiate. If you ring them and say, ‘I’d like to cancel my service,’ you’ll get a difffferent outcome – that’s when they try harder to keep you.”
Bundling bills, especially insurances, can also save you money – as can rolling existing debts into your mortgage, says David. “You’ll generally pay between 15-20 per cent on credit card debts, car loans or personal loans, but if you consolidate these into your mortgage you’ll be paying below five per cent, which will save you thousands in repayments.”
STEP 4: CUT BACK ON EXPENSES
Convinced there’s nowhere else to cut back? Think again. Switching to a cheaper supermarket, such as Aldi, can save you $30-40 per week alone, while meal planning can also stretch the budget. Similarly, ditching the second car to use public transport or Uber can save you heaps in parking and annual car costs.
There are other sacrifices you can make too, says Natasha. “We also pay a premium for convenience, whether it’s grabbing a few coffffees a day, buying lunch or going through the drive-through. Instead, pack your lunch. Embrace second-hand – you’ll be doing the environment a favour AND saving potentially hundreds on things like school books and school uniforms. And make it a game or challenge with your partner to see how many things you can avoid buying, saving that money instead.”