Sunday Territorian

How to save big money at home – room by room

- Anthony Keane Personal finance writer

Australian­s have a chance to reduce the pain of rising inflation and interest rates by conducting a room-by-room sweep of their home in search of savings. Money specialist­s say most people do not realise the impact different parts of their house can have on their total cost of living. And while each cost saving may be small individual­ly, the combined total over a year can top thousands of dollars.

Author and financial commentato­r Effie Zahos said many savings came from reducing energy use, but people should not dismiss other ways to cut costs.

“If you go through your home room by room and take a look at what’s in there, you would be surprised at what savings can be found,” she said.

Sort My Money founder David Rankin describes it as a “walkthroug­h stocktake”.

“We are all so busy and we don’t really pay much attention … a visual check could be quite revealing,” he said. “It’s not something we usually invest time in, but it’s time well spent.”


Ms Zahos has recently updated her book A Real Girl’s Guide to Money to include a bill-busting action plan, and she said the kitchen was one of the biggest places for saving.

Fill your fridge and pantry with the cheapest possible groceries. “Download the HalfPrice app, which shows you everything that’s 50 per cent off at Coles and Woolworths,” Ms Zahos said.

“When you spot pricier items such as dishwashin­g tablets, laundry powder or toiletries at half price, take the opportunit­y to stock up.

“If you shop at Coles or Woolworths, consider signing up for their rewards program. You earn points each time you shop and when you have built up a certain number of points you can use them to get a discount off your shopping.”

Ms Zahos said buying “ugly or imperfect” fruit and veg could save people up to 30 per cent.

“Sure, they may be misshapen or have a few marks but they taste the same and have the same nutritiona­l value,” she said.

Mr Rankin is also a fan of buying less-than-perfect produce.

“There’s a big price difference but the quality’s the same,” he said.

When shopping for specials, be prepared to try different brands. “Lose your brand loyalty – it costs you money without you realising it,” Mr Rankin said.

He said kettles were huge energy guzzlers, but this could be controlled.

“Studies show that it is cheaper to boil water for a cuppa in a kettle on a gas stove than in an electric kettle. For larger quantities of water, a microwave is the cheaper alternativ­e to an electric kettle.”

Energy experts said dishwasher­s used significan­t power and water and should only be operated when full, while running multiple fridges in your home was expensive because they were the only major appliance that operated 24-7.


Another area for big appliances, the laundry offered significan­t savings, Mr Rankin said.

“If you can fill appliances before using them it will reduce your average energy cost,” he said.

“If it’s a half-filled washing machine you are better to wait.”

Tumble dryers were expensive, especially during winter, Mr Rankin said. “If you can’t avoid them, make sure washing is spin-dried before putting it in the tumble dryer, and clean the dryer filter every time,” he said.

Smart Energy co-founder Beau Savage said clothes dryers could be one of the “biggest energy-sucking appliances in your home”.

“A basic vented clothes dryer will generally cost between $76.30 and $534.12 a year to run, depending on the number of loads done each week,” he said.

“More cost-effective solutions when looking to use a dryer are to place it on cool air dry as opposed to heated air, or to pull out the clothes rack or washing line.

“Consider opting for cold water when using the washing machine. This simple switch can lead to significan­t savings of up to 80 per cent on energy costs.”


Mr Savage said hot water could comprise 30 per cent of an electricit­y bill.

“Having a hot shower powered by an electric hot water system can use the same amount of energy as running 150 TVs for an hour,” he said.

Switching off hot water systems for up to 18 hours a day, when not needing the water, could save a household $300-$400 a year, Mr Savage said.

Ms Zahos suggested switching to low-flow showerhead­s and taps to save money on water and heating.

“It is estimated a family of four could potentiall­y save $315 each year on water bills alone by replacing a shower that flows at 15 litres per minute with a five-star shower at six litres per minute,” she said.

“If you have an older hot water system, you may want to look into upgrading it to one that is more energy efficient as it can save you money in the long run. Many state and territory government­s offer rebates to help cover the costs if you are upgrading appliances to a more energy-efficient option.

“Use refillable hand wash, body wash, shampoo and conditione­r instead of buying a new bottle each time you run out. You might be surprised at just how much cheaper it

Make“the most of free trials when trying out a new platform

is.” Refills could cost almost half the price of new bottles, Ms Zahos said.


Some households are signed up to a pile of video and music streaming services they rarely or never use.

Ms Zahos said people could hop between services, watch what they want, then cancel when no longer needed. “Be sure to make the most of free trials when trying out a new platform,” she said.

“The harder your airconditi­oner has to work, the more electricit­y it will consume. That means the lower you set the temperatur­e when cooling and the higher you set it when heating, the more you’re adding to your power bill. According to Canstar Blue, to ensure the maximum energy efficiency from your aircon the optimum temperatur­e is 25C to 27C in summer and around 18C to 20C in winter.”

Also make sure you have the best deal for your internet service. “You don’t want to be paying for NBN 100 if NBN 50 is sufficient,” Ms Zahos said.


Standby power can add an extra 10 per cent to annual electricit­y bills.

“Unplug as many things as you can when they’re not in use … the TV, smart speaker, lamps, your computer if it’s fully charged and anything else in your bedroom,” Ms Zahos said.

“Consider investing in thermal blackout curtains as they can help keep the room warm in winter and cool in summer so you don’t have to rely on your heater or aircon as much.”

Mr Rankin said people could consider installing ceiling fans in bedrooms rather than rely on airconditi­oning next summer.

“An airconditi­oner can cost 30 times more than a ceiling fan to run,” he said.

Time spent before bedtime can include checking finances or talking with your partner rather than mindlessly scrolling social media or the internet.

However, make money discussion­s constructi­ve rather than negative “because people can fall out over things like that”, Mr Rankin said.


Avoid using unnecessar­y standby power in your home office and check the energy star ratings on your screens and other electrical items, Mr Rankin said.

“It’s your money, not your boss’s, these days.”

People should also maximise their tax deductions related to home office use.

Ms Zahos said recent changes to working-from-home tax deductions eliminated the popular ATO shortcut method and affected other work-related home office claims.

“Now the 80c rule is gone, it’s a different game – work out what will give you better deductions,” she said.


OK, so it’s not exactly a room of your home, but the roof is where a growing number of Australian­s are generating big energy savings through installing solar panels.

Solar Analytics CEO Stefan Jarnason said that more than 300,000 people added home solar last year, and the waiting time between ordering and installing was between four and eight weeks.

“Solar panel prices have decreased dramatical­ly over the past decade, with the cost of a now typical 8kW system falling from over $19,000 to about $8000 fully installed,” he said.

Mr Savage said people who used solar panels and home batteries could enjoy significan­t savings.

“Smart Energy has found that Aussies who spend $600 every quarter on electricit­y can save as much as $40,450 over a period of 10 years,” he said.

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