The beauty of budgeting is that it helps you realise when you’re making ridiculous impulse purchases at IKEA again, but what a lot of Australians don’t realise is that a bundle of that extra money you could be saving each month is disguised as ‘essential purchases’ in your budget.
Here are 10 ways to trim the fat from your budget this year and save a bucket load.
1. Dining out
The secret to saving easy money is through meal preparation and bulk cooking. Whipping up an enormous batch of spag bol on Sunday night will ensure you don’t fork out precious dollars for a bowl of $15 pho at work every day for the next week.
And next time you pull together a mean Thai green chicken curry, double the portion and put half in the freezer to eat later, that way you’re minimising waste and saving yourself both time and money in the long run. Winner winner, chicken [curry] dinner.
2. Expensive entertainment
While a $10 Stan subscription may not seem like much when you’re signing up for your 30-day free trial, TV streaming subscriptions can add up to hundreds of dollars a year, especially if you have multiple, which of course you do because Game Of Thrones is on Foxtel Now but Master Of None is on Netflix (porque no los dos??).
Now don’t get your knickers in a knot – you don’t have to deactivate all of your accounts to save money, but you can reevaluate which plans you’re on and whether or not it’s worth splitting the price of a plan with your housemates or friends. This may seem like a small budget tweak, but it could save you a bundle.
3. Bottled water
Buying bottled water is the quickest way to a) destroying the world, and b) murdering your bank balance. At up to $4 a pop, buying bottled water doesn’t make sense, unless you’re on an outside court at the Australian Open and you’re literally about to pass out from heatstroke and/or dehydration.
Instead, invest in a quality water bottle. While the upfront cost may seem steep (if $15 is steep to you), the long term savings is worth it and the environment will thank you.
4. Takeaway coffee
According to the latest data from food and beverage ordering app Skip, the average coffee in Victoria costs $3.70, but for the sake of this example, let’s say they cost $3.70 each. If you drink one takeaway coffee every day for a year, that’s $1,350.50 down the gurgler already.
Instead, brew your own coffee. A good quality 250g bag of ground coffee beans will set you back around $16 a month, $8 per month for the milk and maybe $1 per month for sugar, plus a one-off $40 to pay for a stove top Bialetti (a great home brewing method). This adds up to a measly $300 a year, less than a quarter of the cost of takeaway coffees.
5. Public transport
You were born with legs, and now’s the time to use them. Public transport costs today are bonkers. It can cost up to $8.10 a day to travel to work and back, which then adds up to a whopping $2,106 a year, and that’s without including weekend travel.
You can easily keep some of this money in your piggy bank if you walk or cycle to work instead, it’ll also keep you fit as a fiddle and topped up with some much-needed vitamin D.
6. Premium supermarket brands
We can all be suckers for fancy food brands in the supermarket, but there are a lot of basic items that don’t need an upgrade from Homebrand status. You can save yourself a bundle by always double checking if there’s a Black & Gold option before throwing it in your trolley.
7. Uber rides
One of the biggest drainers on bank accounts each weekend is unnecessary or expensive Uber rides. When you’re a few long island iced teas in, it may seem like a great idea to catch an Uber home (and, of course, make them go through the Maccas drive-through), but double checking the PTV app before you book that Uber could save you a tonne in the long run.
Another way of cutting down on Uber costs is splitting the bill with your friends if you share a ride. This is a handy and somewhat secret element to the Uber app that could prevent your cheapskate friends from freeloading on your generosity.
8. Expensive phone plans
If you haven’t updated your phone plan in a while, chances are it’s probably gone down in price if a new model of your phone has since been released. Scores of happy texters don’t realise that most carriers will let you switch plans for free as much as once a month, which means if you check your carrier website once in awhile, you could be saving yourself a bunch.
Alternatively, if you’ve already paid out the handset portion of your monthly bill, there’s a good chance there are some prepaid or BYO plans available with infinitely more value than your current plan. Don’t be afraid to shop around once your contract is over, other carriers can often make it worth your while!
9. Unnecessary insurance
It may come as a shock to a lot of Australians that many forms of insurance are in fact the ‘expensive and highly unnecessary thing to do’.
Extended warranties on consumer electronics and flight insurance are just some of the dollar-draining policies that you can cull… If you have used a credit card to purchase your flight etc., it is worth checking whether you already have some form of insurance from the credit card provider.
10. Bank fees
Unfortunately, a lot of Australians pay bank fees that are easily avoidable. You can slash bank fees out of your budget by finding out the monthly deposit and minimum balance requirements, foreign transaction fees and exemption allowances (like being a student) of your current bank, or you could shop around for other accounts and banks that are more suited to your savings amounts and habits.
While $4 a month may not seem like a lot now, it can add up to whopping $480 after ten years that could otherwise be spent on 130 takeaway coffees.
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Clover is a personal financial advisor and an online investment service for Australians.
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