En­joy the good life mi­nus the debt

Money Magazine Australia - - COVER STORY -

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.

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