How to save more this year than ever before
Do you feel like you keep working, bringing in money but aren’t getting anywhere financially? When it comes to saving money we all hear the regular tips such as meal planning, save some from every pay, turn off everything at the powerpoint and so on. For most of my readers, these are the basics. Here’s a list of 18 things you can do to save big this year, which go beyond meal planning and creating a budget!
With any of these ideas, check the legalities and requirements of your area. It is different in every council. Plus, any money you save using these tips, put the actual money into a high-interest savings account or pay it off debt so you are actually saving it and not just frittering it away in another part of the budget.
Make sure you join our Facebook group to get more tips and join in the conversations to make and save money. *Note there are some affiliate links for products or services used by us in this post.
1.) Freebies and Discounts
Freebies can save you a lot of money, as can discounts. Our list of birthday freebies has meals, stationery, gift vouchers, beauty treatments and more you can get. Many are valid for the whole week or month of your birthday so make sure you sign up. On top of that, some have a sign-up offer and others offer regular freebies e.g. The Pancake Parlour in my area sends an sms on hot days and you get a free drink.
On top of birthday freebies, check out all the freebies and discounts here from Aussie companies, which total about $400 worth. Such as $25 from ING, $10 from Kikki.K and more.
Sign up for Cash Rewards and make sure you add it to your toolbar on Chrome. This way, whenever you are on a site, it will pop up and tell you how much cash you can get back. You activate it then shop and get money back. Check out this list of ways to get discounts too.
Lastly, go over every area of your budget and see what you can get for free. Check out this post with 50 ideas from accommodation to food or read this one about how families can live for free.
2.) Fix your housing!
Housing is one of the biggest expenses for people, sometimes taking up more than 50% of the family budget. If you can reduce this, you ease your finances significantly. Aim for 30% or lower.
If you own a home:
The average Australian saves up to $3,000 a year doing it. Imagine, if you threw that $3k into your mortgage anyway, you’d save interest and pay it off faster. In fact, on the average mortgage of $380,000 at 4% you can shave nearly 5 years and over $40,000 in interest alone off your mortgage. (Based on starting the extra payments at the 5 year mark of your 30 year mortgage).
Switch the payments to weekly instead of monthly
This reduces the interest slightly and while it’s a minor difference in the beginning but the difference is thousands over the term of the loan.
Use the redraw facility
Throw all extra money into it and if you are saving for something e.g. a car, a holiday, home renovations etc if your bank allows you to redraw the full amount you need when you need it. It reduces the interest you pay as long as the money is in there.
Lastly, look at how your home can make you money. Renting a room on Airbnb, to a boarder or to exchange students can be worth $200 a week. Your garage can be rented out for $50 or so a week and if you go away at all, you can rent out your entire home on Airbnb or similar sites. Over Christmas, I rented my apartment out for 5 days and they paid double what it costs me to live here. Check out this post for ways to make your mortgage or home pay for itself.
If you rent:
Look for somewhere cheaper if you are in a position to or look at how you can reduce the rent. Can you share the home with others, rent out a room on Airbnb or similar, rent out the garage or parking space? Check your lease and council regulations to see what you can and can’t do.
3.) Sort your transport
I sold my car because I live in an area where I can walk everywhere or use public transport (often free). I used to spend $20,000 a year on my car (the cost of the car, petrol, servicing, insurance, parking etc). Once I moved to Melbourne, I sold my car, walked everywhere or used public transport or Uber which worked out to be $90 a week for me. Now I own a car again and the cost is under $100 a week still (smaller, cheaper car with less driving, cheaper registration, insurance and maintenance).
Work out what transport option you need and how to reduce it, this might mean you need a car or it could mean public transport works better.
Tips to reduce the cost of owning your car
Take care of it
Service it regularly, keep the tyres at the right pressure, keep it clean and make sure you aren’t weighing it down unnecessarily with extra junk. Clean it and keep it undercover where possible. Bird poo can cause paint to deteriorate and dirt inside the car can cause the upholstery to wear quicker. For resale value, keep your car in good condition.
Top up when it’s cheap
Instead of letting your petrol get to empty, top up when it’s cheap. You can use apps to let you know where petrol is cheaper. I haven’t used any so can’t recommend a specific one.
Do everything you need to do on one trip instead of making multiple trips. This will reduce wear and tear on the car, mileage and petrol usage.
Make money with it
Look into putting signage on your car for a business or check options to rent your car out such as Car Next Door.
Pay off any loan quickly and save for your next car
Avoid debt where possible for things like cars. Cars decrease in value which means your loan is often quickly more than the value of the car. When replacing your car do your research. Check the value online to ensure the price you are looking at is fair, check if it has been in any accidents, look up common faults or issues for the exact car you are looking at buying and avoid any which are known to be problematic.
4.) Work out your groceries
We all have to eat, clean, wash the clothes and ourselves, so groceries are an unavoidable expense. How much you spend is up to you. Sometimes it is a time vs cost, for example, making your own tortillas, sauces, spices, cakes etc is cheaper but it all takes time.
Decide how much time you have to put towards cooking and reducing the cost of your groceries. Do not put pressure on yourself to get it as low as others if you don’t have the time to cook the way they do or if members of your family have allergies or if your husband/children refuse to eat anything which has been frozen.
Work out what works for you and go with it. Some people find meal planning helps a lot. Others prefer to get everything on clearance and plan around that. Pasta, bread, rice and potatoes are cheap and form the basis of some people’s meals, others such as myself don’t eat these. You decide how you want to eat. We eat low and slow carb mostly, which means no gluten, no sugar etc.
How to reduce your groceries
Once you have decided how you want to eat (e.g. which diet such as vegetarian, low carb, keto and if you want to meal plan or wing it), sit down and work out how you can get your groceries lower.
This post outlines loads of ways to get free and super cheap food such as a free HelloFresh box, bartering, foraging, shopping right when the markets close, buying in bulk where possible and practical etc.
Drink only water!
Alcohol is so expensive. I grew up Mormon so didn’t drink, then a couple of years ago I started drinking a little but it’s pointless. I’ve stopped drinking and love the savings, my skin is better as is my health. When I stick to only water I save money and feel better. Tea and coffee have never been drinks I have, soft drink I used to drink a lot but have cut that out too. Juice is simply liquid sugar and milk we rarely have as a drink. Going back to water saves a lot.
Plan for takeaway
Whether you buy takeaway or not there are going to be nights you don’t want to cook or are busy. Plan ahead. Have a list of meals you can whip up in 20 minutes or freeze meals such as pizza, pies, spaghetti, curry and other meals you love as takeaway. If you plan for it and budget it in you won’t kill the budget or feel guilty.
Use up leftovers
You can turn leftover soup into risotto, leftover risotto into arancini. Leftover meats can be used instead of fresh meat in curries, stews, pasta bakes, fried rice, pies, frittata’s, on pizza, in calzones etc. If you have sad looking veggies grate them into spaghetti, chilli, minestrone or other mince dishes. Leftover mashed potato can be used in a cottage pie, turned into potato nests or used in soup such as pumpkin or cauliflower soup. Check out these 20 meal ideas for a leftover sausage and think about ways you can use your leftovers. This post has ideas for ham and this one for roast chicken.
Carrot tops, celery leaves and other vegetable scraps can become stock for soup, risotto and stews. Potato skins can be used to make chips, seeds and roots of plants can be planted to grow more especially when it comes to herbs, shallots or similar. If a potato starts to sprout you can plant it and get more potatoes. 26 Ingredients is an eBook with more tips plus recipes from a simple pantry of only 26 ingredients.
5.) Compare all your providers
List out all your bills such as phone, internet, electricity, gas, water, health insurance, home and contents, car and other insurances then get quotes and compare them all to ensure you are getting the right price, are adequately insured and not accidentally paying for anything you don’t need anymore. Check your direct debits while you’re at it too.
6.) Consolidate and look for lost money
Use MyGov to consolidate any superannuation accounts you have but make sure you check the insurances before you do it so you know which one to transfer the funds to.
Next, check for lost money through your state revenue office. You can find out more about that here.
Lastly, go through your house and car with a fine tooth comb, find all the money and deposit it into savings. Check out this post for 11 ways to find money.
7.) Do a no spend challenge or spending fast
Stop spending on anything that is non-essential. The essentials including bills such as electricity, your mortgage or rent, transport as needed, food (but not takeaway or restaurants etc), basically anything you need to survive. You can read about my 6 month one here along with 10 tips to help you stop spending and 5 tips to reduce temptation.
Try doing it for 30 days and during that time, if things come up you want to buy such as clothes, takeaway or home decor items, write them on a list. At the end of the no spend challenge, if you still really want those items, look at how you can work them into your budget and save for them. Most people find at the end of the challenge, those things they thought they wanted, they no longer want.
8.) Reduce Childcare
Childcare can take up a massive portion of a family budget. Since working is how you pay for everything else, it’s not really avoidable. To reduce childcare costs, here are some options:
Can you arrange with other parents to look after each others kids. For example, if you get a few of you together and each have the kids on one day, it means you can all work, you all have kid-free time and it’s only one day a week you need to have all the kids. Doing childcare swaps is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to sort out childcare.
If you require less than 20 hours a week of childcare and have a spare room, a demi pair could be a good option. They get room and board in exchange for 20 hours a week childcare and light housework. You will have to find a new one every 6 months though, so take that into consideration.
I did a similar thing to enable me to travel to the Solomons for a week. Had friends stay for free with me for a while and look after my kids before and after school in exchange. It worked great and meant I could do this trip.
If you have a spare room and need more than 20 hours a week you could look at an au pair. There are loads of groups on Facebook and sites online where you can find one or go through an agency. They will stay with you, get room, board and an allowance which is agreed upon before they start. They can stay up to 6 months and can become a great addition to the family.
Live out nanny or housekeeper
Depending on your income, how many hours you need and where you live, a housekeeper or live out nanny might work out to be cheaper than paying for after-school care. Compare rates and options in your area to see if it’s worth it. In my area, many university students are available to pick kids up from school, look after them and clean until you get home which works out cheaper than a nanny and cleaning agency or after school care, depending on the rebates you’re eligible for.
If you have one or two children or only need part-time help, see if another family are interested in doing a nanny share or au pair share option. They can look after the two to four kids together (sometimes more than two kids costs extra so check that before you agree) or look after one family part of the week and the other family the rest of the working week.
9.) Do a challenge
I already mentioned the no spend challenge, but there are other challenges you can try throughout the year as well.
This challenge has a task to do each day and lots of tips to make and save money in every area of your budget. One reader found $20,000 on the first day, many others have secured $2,000+ within the 21 days.
$5 note challenge
Save every $5 note you get then bank it into savings at the end of the year. I am not a huge fan of this one as I prefer my money to be earning interest, however, many people save $1,000 or more through the year simply by putting all their $5 notes in one spot and not touching them.
52 weeks savings challenge
I shared a variation of this on a site I owned back in 2010. That variation was to save $1 in the first week, $2 in the second week, $3 in the third week and so on until the last week you are saving $52. The reason it was done this way was to help you develop the habit of saving and increase it over time.
Other versions have you doing it in reverse e.g. $52 in week 1, $51 in week 2 then only $1 in the last week of the year.
However you decide to do it I recommend starting now and saving at least something from every pay, eventually working it up to a minimum of 10% of your pay. If you want to reach financial independence you will need to reduce all your expenses and save even more of your income so you can retire early. The sooner you get in the habit, the easier it is.
10.) Clear your debt
Debt sucks the life and money out of you. Have you ever thought about what life would be if you were debt free? Take a moment to add up all your debt and how much you repay each week or month. What could you do with that money?
Now you can see yourself debt free, create a plan to make it happen. Whether you choose to pay the smallest debt off first then roll whatever you were paying off that debt onto the next one or whether you go with the highest interest debt first, just get started! Once you have cleared a debt, take all the money you were paying off it and put it on the next debt, then the next until you are debt free.
For some examples and tips check out this post with 6 ways to easily reduce debt, this post about how one reader cleared $90,000 worth of debt in one year (and they were unemployed with debt collectors calling constantly when they started), how this reader cleared $3,000 in one month and how to deal with debt here.
11.) Have something to save for
Have you ever noticed it is easier to pay off debt than it is to save for something? Having a clear goal is what makes it easier. With debt, you can be motivated to pay it off because you have an exact amount you need to clear plus you have the extra motivation of interest costing you extra money.
Why are you saving money? Is it for a house loan, a new car, a family holiday? Put a picture of it up somewhere you will see it regularly and have a savings graph so you can colour in the amounts you save to keep you motivated. If you are clearing debt, you can have a graph for this too. The visual really helps.
12.) Tackle one thing at a time
The reason many people fail when they try to makeover their finances is they try to tackle everything at once, which can be overwhelming. Pick one thing a day or week to focus on and get under control instead of doing everything. Be proud of yourself for each step and don’t beat yourself up if you slip up now and then. It’s a constant work in progress getting your finances sorted.
13.) Know what suits you and shop accordingly
This can be applied to both the home and your wardrobe. Know what your style is, which items suit you or your home and what you need. When you know what you need and what works, you spend less.
In 2012, I invested in a session with a personal stylist who showed me which styles suit my body shape, how to mix and match my wardrobe, which colours suit etc. This had the effect of reducing how much I bought because I loved every time I owned and it meant I wasn’t buying stuff just because it was on sale. Instead, I knew which brands and styles to look for, could pick them up for cheap second hand and looked good in everything. As it was all high quality it lasted a long time. In fact, I still have 4 pairs of shoes and a few outfits from then.
The same goes for the home. Know the style you want, decorate accordingly and stop buying every new $5 thing that comes out at Kmart. You don’t need it!
For more tips on fashion check out these posts.
14.) What can you DIY?
Ok, not everything should be attempted and for somethings, professionals will do it much quicker, resulting in time saved. However, here are some you might want to tackle:
Beauty – cut and colour your own hair, do a facial, manicure and pedicure. These things can cost a lot of money over the course of the year but if you have a basic haircut and colour, some nail polish and a few bits and pieces for manis and pedis, you can do it easily at home. Read this post for diy health and beauty tips.
Plumbing – if a tap is leaking, change the washer. If a sink is clogged, undo the U bend and clean it out. Some things can be simple to fix, anything more advanced should be done by a plumber.
Car maintenance – basic car maintenance can be done yourself if you want to. Changing tyres, oil and filters is manageable with the right tools. Check out this post from a female mechanic in Sydney to give you some car maintenance tips.
15.) Reduce your bills
I often hear about bills which cost hundreds of dollars, yet there are so many things you can do to cut costs with all your bills. Aside from comparing providers mentioned earlier, look at how you use everything. For example, many people I know spend $1,000+ a year on electricity. My bill is $60 a month for 4 people. You can check out 17 tips to reduce the cost of electricity here.
With water, divert the washing machine to the lawn if you need to water the garden. Install rain tanks, take shorter showers by using a timer and washing your hair less often (which is also good for your hair). Think about how you use water and how you can reduce it.
With phone and internet, compare prepaid vs a plan and find the right option for you. Most mobile providers have good coverage now so it’s no longer a matter of “Telstra has the best coverage”. Also, do you really need a home phone?
16.) Work out and stick to a budget
Firstly, go over your statements to see where you spend money and how much you are spending. Once you get over the heart attack of some of the things you are spending on, create a plan. A budget can be super simple and easy to stick to. It is essentially telling your money where to go before it hits your account and making sure you spend less than you earn. Read this post on how to create and stick to a budget to help you.
17.) Choose things to switch
What can you switch to a free or cheaper option? For example, taking your lunch from home instead of buying it, borrowing books from the library instead of buying them, borrowing DVDs from the library or friends, utilising the share economy and pay it forward groups to get access to things you need (as well as give) instead of buying everything. Can you work out from home, with friends or join a free class at your local park or meet up group instead of paying for a gym membership. Join a weightloss betting group. I have friends in the US who do this, everyone puts money in and whoever loses the most weight wins. It can be a great motivator and cheaper than the gym.
How many of your habits are simply default reactions you can swap? Evaluate all your habits and spending, then make the changes.
18.) Earn more money and put it straight into savings
If you have your budget sorted, look at ways to make more money and put all the extra money into savings or paying off debt. Don’t allow it to get eaten up by the regular expenses in your budget. There are 18 ways to make money this year here, some which will earn you over $20,000! What would you be able to do if you could actually save that much more money and do it next year too?
How are you saving money?