How to do an Annual Review and Save More Money
Tax time is the ideal time to review all your finances, compare deals and make sure you’re getting the most for your money.
The following is from a financial review I did in 2018, you can find another in 2019 here.
In 2021 I had another baby and then another in 2022 plus moved interstate so the reviews weren’t comparisons of my lifestyle as so much had changed.
When it comes to doing a financial review it can seem daunting at first but if you go step by step it isn’t too bad.
Look at your bank statements, bills and regular spending to see what changes you can make.
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Groceries – Save at least $50 a week/$2,600 a year
Most Australians are throwing out thousands of dollars worth of food each year because they haven’t planned well.
With a few changes, you can easily save over $50 a week on groceries.
My savings – $1,300 a year
In our house, I’m now doing intermittent fasting (at the recommendation of my trainer).
Friday Family Fun Night had a bit of a shakeup too. This is the one night of the week we eat junk food.
My kids will still get their treats but I am dropping back what I have. This tweak to our lifestyle is saving $25 a week or $1,300 a year.
What can you change with your groceries to save money?
Housing/Rent/Mortgage – Save $10+ per week or $520 per year at least
When was the last time you refinanced your mortgage or reviewed rent?
Have you looked at ways you can make your home pay for itself?
Refinancing can save you a few thousand a year, negotiating when you get a rent rise or looking elsewhere, depending on where you live and the property market there.
To make money from your home you can rent the garage on Spacer.
My garage is rented for $191.99 a month ongoing.
Alternatively, I have rented it through Gumtree but Spacer is easier. You can also rent your place or a room on Airbnb.
For more tips, read how to make your mortgage pay for itself, based on the home I was living in at the time.
What I’m saving – $588 a year on rent & making an extra $7,303+
Personally, I am moving to a cheaper home (to get my kids into the high school we want).
I am still renting the garage at the new place for the same price but we will also have a spare room to rent out regularly if we want.
Plus, when going away, the bigger home in that area rents for a lot more than I currently get for my 2 bedroom apartment.
This means saving $588 a year on rent, continuing with my $2,303.88 income from a garage and possibly $5,000+ from Airbnb when we travel.
Transport – At least $1,000
In Canberra, we needed 2 cars when I was partnered which cost $20,000 a year.
Now, in Melbourne, I’m single, don’t need a car and have been tracking the difference.
For the past 2 years, I only spent $1,000 each year, a saving of $38,000 total.
I know this isn’t practical for everyone though!
Check out this post on living without a car for more information.
If you need a car, make sure you keep it well maintained, use apps to lock in great fuel prices, keep an eye on fuel prices, only drive when necessary and make sure you’re tyres are at the optimum level.
All the little things really add up when it comes to the cost of running your car.
Also, do a comparison for insurance to make sure you’re getting the best rate.
My savings – minus $2,367
With my move, transport costs will increase as we will be using the public transport system.
Still cheaper than owning a car though. I will be spending an extra $2,367 annually on transport.
Phone and Internet – save $20+ per month or $240 a year
When was the last time you checked your phone and internet plans?
I’ve switched my phone provider a few times as well as my internet provider.
Check the fine print and special offers happening because you might be eligible for sign-up bonuses and discounts.
I saved by switching to a lesser known brand. Our best known companies back the small ones anyway and are not worth the expense.
My savings are $285 for the year
So far I can only add in the mobile phone savings, but internet I am pretty sure will be at least $10 cheaper when I move too, saving another $520 a year.
Banking – get rid of your fees and make $100 as well
Switch your banking and save, or possibly even make money!
Basically, with banking, check all your fees and transactions.
Just last month I was charged $25 in fees with my business banking. I rang them, questioned it and got a refund.
Check your savings accounts for the best interest rate, minimise or eliminate fees for all your banking and look at your credit card options.
If you have credit cards or other debt, compare to ensure you’re getting the best rates and switch to 0% balance transfers to help you get ahead if needed.
Be aware, it can impact your credit score and borrowing capacity though.
For my banking, switching my business banking saved $120 a year, plus the $25 fee refund.
Total savings/extra cash for me $280+ for the year.
This is a combination of saved fees and interest/investment increases.
Debt – save thousands and clear it!
Having debt is crushing, it’s stealing from tomorrow.
Whenever you buy things on debt, you’re simply postponing the payments, but you can change the cycle.
List out your debts including how much is owed, what the repayments are, what the interest is and any fees and charges.
Next, create a plan of action to pay it off. Most people have great success working from the smallest debt to the largest.
All extra money is thrown at the smallest debt to clear it.
As one debt is paid off, the repayments are applied to the next debt and so on.
Find out how this couple cleared $90,000 worth of debt in 12 months, starting off unemployed.
What insurance do you have and when is the last time you compared it?
My number one tip with insurance is to never simply pay the renewal, always compare and get a new quote. Insurance companies give their best rates to new customers, so shop around.
List all the insurance you have such as home and contents, car, health, life and TPD insurance. Check what you are currently paying then compare.
Don’t use the sites which advertise heavily to compare as they don’t have all the options.
Instead, use the government ones or do your own research.
Bills – mine are under $70 a month
Get out your bills or check your statements online for everything you pay for such as electricity, water and gas. Compare and switch if needed.
When you do this, check your usage, compare the actual rates plus discounts.
I am currently with Red Energy for electricity. They offer a $25 bonus when you join too.
Are you eligible for a pensioner discount and can you do the pay-on-time discount?
Many companies now offer a discount of 30% or more off your usage if you have direct debit and pay on time.
For tips to reduce your electricity usage, check out 17 ways to save on electricity which outlines how I keep my bills down to $60 or $70 a month!
Energy Made Easy is the government site you can use to compare electricity and gas.
My savings – ?
My bills are already low, however, with moving house I am sure they will go up as it is at least twice as big as my current home, older and less energy efficient. We’ll see how it goes.
Hobbies and entertainment
What are your hobbies, what do you do for entertainment and how can you save money with it?
As my children get older, their interests and extracurricular activities are getting more expensive but are still relatively cheap.
They do dance, martial arts and football most of which is at school but after hours for an extra fee. Football is on Sunday and it’s free.
My personal hobbies are writing (which is also an income for me), reading, diving, hiking, swimming and kayaking.
To give you some ideas of free and cheap hobbies join meetup or Facebook groups with events in your area, do some trial classes, pick things you want to learn and look for discount offers to do them.
For example, Groupon has a variety of classes and activities from cooking to archery and skydiving.
My savings with hobbies – minus $2,604
Compared to last year, we are spending $2,604 more on hobbies but it’s worth it.
This year is the first year my kids have done dance and it is crazy cheap compared to elsewhere.
My gym membership is only $17 a week, no joining fee, no lock-in contract and it has everything I want.
Beauty – save $500+
As an ex-hairdresser and beautician, this is an area where I save a lot of money because I can DIY.
Australians spend $22 billion on beauty a year.
You can easily reduce how much you spend by doing a few things yourself, changing your routine and knowing what works for you.
If you sat down and added it all up, you might be surprised.
Waxing, haircuts and colours, makeup, skincare, manicures, pedicures, nail polish etc.
Even DIY costs money for the products, but it often isn’t included properly in the family budget.
This post shares my tips for health and beauty. If you saved even $10 a week on beauty, that’s $520 a year!
Doctors visits, tests, medication, physio and other unexpected medical expenses can hurt the budget.
Last year I paid $5,000 for an autism assessment for my eldest (worth it!) as well as thousands for my own medical issues.
Over the years I have paid more some weeks for speech therapy and other medical needs for my daughters than I paid in rent.
Medical isn’t an area you can scrimp on a lot, but there are things you can do!
On another site I own, I shared how to afford medical expenses (some of it is aimed at those living on Centrelink).
Asking your doctor if they bulk bill or finding one who does, learning some natural remedies, realising that a virus doesn’t need antibiotics (bacterial infections do, but basic viruses simply need you to rest), things like that.
It all adds up and saves you money, plus if you know more about yourself you can take better care of yourself.
Clothing, Shoes, Accessories
Knowing what you have in the wardrobe, which clothes suit you, the brands which last and you love all help.
This knowledge means you can shop easily in sales or at op shops and actually wear what you own.
Most people wear 20% of their wardrobe 80% of the time.
This means 80% of your clothing probably isn’t being worn at all.
Yes, there are a few items you might need but don’t wear all the time (I have a formal dress I use for every formal occasion.
It was $150 and has been way cheaper than renting).
When it comes to shoes, quality is important. Since we walk everywhere, it’s important shoes last.
As for accessories, we buy bags and things on sale usually.
Make sure you have an amount in your budget allocated for clothing, shoes and accessories.
Kids wear out clothes quickly, they grow and you will need to replace everything fairly often.
Do you have a set amount you save? The best advice I got when I was younger was to pay myself first.
We allocate money for everything, then try to save money from what’s left over.
If your savings were treated as a bill, you’d find the money to make it happen.
Choose an amount such as 5% to 10% to start saving.
Set up a separate high-interest savings account and an automatic transfer.
If you’re with ING they have a round up feature which means when you spend, if the amount was $7.95 for example, it can be rounded up to $10 and the difference deposited into your savings account.
If you want to be a millionaire, you can be through doing this alone.
I don’t scrimp when it comes to charity, I give of my time and money.
Most people recommend donating 10%, though if you are struggling with debt or not making ends meet this can feel impossible, so do what works for you.
Pick a cause and donate.
Birthdays and celebrations
Check out our list of Australian birthday freebies here to help you save money.
For my kids, they have a birthday party each year, but it doesn’t need to be expensive.
My 9 year old had a spy party we did at the local park.
I set up training exercises, we did a scavenger hunt, then they had to solve a bunch of clues to retrieve the package, which was their party bags.
They loved it and all the kids came dressed in black as spies.
Work with a theme and think outside the box. Look up games which match the theme or do something like a bike party.
My sister did this recently, all the kids brought their bikes to the park and rode around, playing games.
Kids love freedom like this to explore, play and be imaginative, not to mention competitive with races!
Read how to afford kids’ parties for some tips.
Are you saving to replace certain items and need to budget them in?
Are there any areas of your budget you’re currently not paying attention to or need to save for?
Takeaway, coffees at work, work presents and unexpected car maintenance are a few common ones.
Have a buffer for these sort of things but try to take note of them as they come up too so you can plan for them.
Ones such as replacing the car or fridge you can plan for now and start saving.
Check your credit score
As part of an annual review, it’s a good idea to check your credit score.
I check mine monthly and am happy to be in the top bracket for it but wasn’t always.
This is something that impacts the interest rates you are offered and what you are eligible for so it is important to know.
Check your net worth
Your net worth is the total you are worth when you add up all your assets minus your liabilities.
Assets include the value of your home, superannuation, savings accounts, shares and other investments.
Liabilities include debts such as your credit card, personal loan, mortgage etc.
Find out more about how to check your net worth and why you should here.
Have you done an annual review of your finances? How much did you save?
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