The Chronicle

Over-the-fence advice



Asocially distanced chat over the backyard fence or apartment balcony is the most interactio­n with friends that many Australian­s can have right now, but it can be used to cut the cost of bills.

The cost of living is not a taboo topic to talk about, unlike wages or net worth, and finance specialist­s say discussing bills with neighbours can be beneficial.

New research by Compare the Market found that one in five neighbours have been involved in sharing bill advice, mostly around energy, grocery, phone and internet bills.

More than four out of five people think their neighbours get a better deal on bills than they do, the research found, and almost twothirds say they would take action if they discovered they were paying more than their neighbour.

“People have a lot to learn from their neighbours when it comes to saving money on bills given their shared circumstan­ces,” says Compare the Market spokesman Simon Downes. “Don’t see it as trying to outdo the Joneses but a good opportunit­y to share learnings and informatio­n about good deals.

“If you were paying hundreds of dollars a year more for your energy or home insurance than your immediate neighbours, wouldn’t you want to know about it?”

Sort My Money founder David Rankin says a neighbourl­y chat can be an effective way to reduce costs, not only for energy bills but also service providers such as gyms, mechanics and hairdresse­rs.

But remember that a neighbour’s circumstan­ces may differ from yours and affect the cost of bills, Rankin says. For example, one home may have solar power and use energy differentl­y during peak periods.

“It is reassuring that, even in our hi-tech age, good old-fashioned word of mouth is as relevant as ever,” Rankin says.

He says it’s socially acceptable to share informatio­n about bills.

“I think people are more open than they used to be, but there’s still some unwritten rules, like you don’t go telling people how much you earn,” Rankin says.

“If somebody does that, it’s a social taboo.”

Sharing wage or wealth informatio­n between friends can leave one party deflated, potentiall­y embarrasse­d and possibly upset.

Starting a conversati­on about bills might seem tricky, so try to boost your neighbour’s confidence by saying you’re concerned you are paying too much and would like their advice.

“If you give them a sob story, most people would want to help,” Rankin says.

“Nobody wants to see someone being ripped off.”

Downes says some people avoid talking about money altogether for fear of being judged or seen as a gloater, but if you know and trust your neighbour there’s no harm in sharing or seeking advice.

“You shouldn’t feel awkward opening these discussion­s – just build them into your casual conversati­ons,” he says.

“The next time you’re chatting across the fence about the news of the day, ask your neighbour if they’ve noticed energy bills increasing, and whether they’re with a different provider.

“Remember that you’re both in the same boat. Everyone pays the same bills, so keep the subject in mind and wait for the opportunit­y to bring it up in conversati­on.”

Downes says good and bad experience­s with bill providers can also be shared.

“Personal recommenda­tions can be hugely valuable, not just when it comes to dollars and cents but also customer service,” he says.

 ??  ?? Neighbours can be a wealth of informatio­n about many things, including deals on household bills; and (left) Compare the Market’s Simon Downes.
Neighbours can be a wealth of informatio­n about many things, including deals on household bills; and (left) Compare the Market’s Simon Downes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia