Enjoy the good life minus the debt
Rising electricity costs, rising gas costs, rising rents, rising property prices and rising interest rates – yet stagnant wages. If you are feeling that the cost of living is going up, you are not imagining it. Meanwhile, spending expectations have increased. For instance, we now use and rely on more gadgetry in our lives than we did a decade ago. I fret if I am without my smartphone for more than an hour. And my kids have tablets for computer games and spend much more time on them than I would like them to.
What to do? Can you still enjoy a good lifestyle without going into debt?
Yes, you can if you are savvy with saving money. Here are six of my top tips:
1 Maintain an abundance mindset
When economic times are tough, it is easy to panic. If we feel stressed about lack of money, if we constantly talk about not having enough money, it is hard to think of creative ways to attract money. Overall, we are lucky to live in Australia. When I lived in South-East Asia, you could always pick the Aussies on holidays – we were always the best dressed! If you are like me, you probably already have an abundance of things (some would say clutter) in your life. Celebrate what you have with a spirit of gratitude. Value yourself and think creatively about how you can get more money. Could you negotiate a raise? Drive an Uber? Sell off some of that clutter? Let out that (now decluttered) spare room on Airbnb? Sell craft at a market stall or on Etsy? Start investing using advice in this magazine? Focus on the joy rather than the doom and gloom, and watch your abundance grow.
2 Negotiate a better deal with your energy provider
Electricity and gas prices have gone up steeply for consumers. Are you paying more than you need to for your utilities?
Comparing different policies seems daunting to non-experts but it is easier than you think.
You can start by calling your existing utility provider and asking them if they can do a better deal. My dad did this, and he saved around $636 a year. The phone call took less than 15 minutes.
If you live in an area where there is more than one provider, it pays to compare. A handy resource is the Australian government’s Energy Made Easy website (energymadeeasy. gov.au). The steps on the website prompt you to enter relevant information from your bill and it compares different deals. The website works for gas and electricity.
An alternative is to renegotiate whenever there is a better deal. The Choice Transformer program helps consumers find the best possible deal on electricity. Transformer analyses potential savings with other providers, and switches back and forth depending on the savings to be made. It costs $99 a year, and it will only charge you if it can get you at least $99 in savings. For details, go to canisaveonenergy.com.au/electricity.
3 Ditch the shopping trolley
Did you know that on average Australian households throw out one in five bags of groceries and we generate 8.2 tonnes of food waste each year, much of which goes to landfill and rots, producing greenhouse gases? Then there is the time spent selecting items, queuing at the checkout, putting them away and throwing them out when you discover them at the back of the fridge, quietly going rotten. When you shop with a trolley, you tend to fill it. Where possible, avoid using a trolley and you will automatically find that you focus on what you need and thus avoid buying too much.
4 Grow your own
Spring is an ideal time to start a vegie garden – even during a drought. We have a small balcony but still manage to grow chillies, parsley, mint, oregano, aloe vera and cherry tomatoes. It can be easy to spend more money setting up your vegie patch than what you reap from it so purchase plants from school fetes, accept seedlings from friends or sow from seeds yourself. Use discarded pots or even old plastic containers. Share your produce with friends and neighbours, and you may find that they start giving you lemons, pumpkins or zucchinis in return.
5 Cut down on grog
We are blessed to have some of the best wineries in the world, in addition to beer and spirits producers. We have also become big drinkers. Many Aussies now think nothing of opening a bottle of something (with or without dinner) every night of the week. According to the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education, the average Australian household spends $1674.40 a year on alcohol.
My husband and I like to enjoy a glass of something on Friday night to celebrate the end of the week, or when out to dinner or spending time with friends. It’s a treat – not an everyday staple. Beyond the alcohol content, there’s a lot of kilojoules and sugar in a glass of booze. When we do indulge, we drink our homemade ginger beer, apple cider or beer (which works out around 50¢ for a 750ml bottle), or we indulge in a bottle of $5 Aldi rosé. Guests gravitated to these offers ahead of more expensive labels at our recent wedding.
6 Your car is not always the best chariot
Do you have a second car sitting in your garage? I gave my car to my dad after I realised I was driving it only once or twice a month. By not paying to run my car, I save $5000 a year – that’s a lot of Uber trips. I now walk and cycle more: I’ve improved my fitness and also said goodbye to a $1040-a-year gym membership. When I need a car I walk to a nearby share car “pod” and get in a GoGet. I pay a small monthly fee and can then book and pay by the hour. The best thing is that the cars are new and I never have to worry about maintenance.
4. JOB SECURITY p42 5. NOT HAVING ENOUGH TO RETIRE p44 1. COST OF LIVING p36 3. MANAGING DEBT p40 2. UNEXPECTED EXPENSES p38
SerinaBirdrejoicesincreativeways to save money. Her first book, The Joyful Frugalista, is being published by Murdoch Books and will be released in February.