The best place to start is to take a good look over your finances to see where your money is going. From there, break expenses down into essentials, importants and luxuries.
Then, get to work on making positive changes using these simple tips and tricks:
1. Cut your spending
Reducing how much you spend may involve uncomfortable sacrifices – no more meals out, barista coffees or trips to the movies. However, there are ways to curb your spending that don’t involve going without:
Use points - Spend credit card, frequent flyer, store card and loyalty points instead of your hard-earned money
Spend gift vouchers - Don’t let that value expire unused
Ask for discounts - Businesses don’t like losing customers, especially with a possible recession looming. Negotiate discounts, such as when using cash, pre-paying, or joining a subscription
Shop around - Utilities, banks, and others often charge existing customers more than new ones – a ‘loyalty tax’. Don’t pay it out of ignorance. Shop around. Some even offer bonuses or cashback for switching
Slash waste - Waste is spending money for no gain whatsoever. For instance, appliances left on standby chewing power, unnecessary loads in the car burning fuel, food leftovers going bad
2. Change your habits
Getting a different outcome (that is, lower costs) means doing things differently. For example:
Pay with cash instead of cards - you’ll avoid overspending because you can only spend what you have withdrawn from the ATM
Have groceries delivered rather than shopping in-store – saving time, fuel and avoiding temptations to impulse buy
Change what you eat - cook at home more, eat less meat, use cheaper brands, stockpile on-sale items, cook in bulk and freeze meals
Top up fuel on cheap days, not when the tank is empty
Don’t go crazy as some prices start falling again – things may still get worse before they improve
3. Cancel the unnecessary
Chances are you’re currently paying for things you don’t really need. Are you actually using that gym membership regularly? Reading that subscription magazine? Using all those TV services? If not, cancel them.
Do you have unused items in storage? Sell or donate them. Are your insurances fit for purpose? Changing plans or dropping extras you no longer need could cut your premiums. Before you do, get advice from your insurance broker for car/home/contents/landlord insurance, and from a financial adviser for personal insurance – to ensure you retain the best cover for you.
4. Defer what you can
Certain spending can be pushed back to when finances aren’t so tight. For example, payment plans allow you to pay off certain debts gradually over time, rather than as a lump sum. That will free up cash for other things.
Free/cheap second-hand furniture and clothes can push back the cost of replacing that broken sofa or torn jacket.
5. Boost your earnings
While on the hunt for savings, don’t overlook ways to bring more money in.
How are your investments performing? Are they keeping up with inflation? Could you do something differently to generate higher returns? Do you have unclaimed refunds that can be cashed? Insurance claims to be lodged? Forgotten monies owed to you? That cash is more useful to you in your account than someone else’s.
6. Get help
Seeking help when money matters get tough not only helps here and now, but saves you longer term by avoiding debt blowouts and even bankruptcy.
Utilities, councils, the tax office, and others have hardship provisions for a reason. If you’re desperate, talk to them about alternative arrangements.
Banks and lenders can temporarily pause or change repayments, or extend your mortgage term to reduce monthly repayments. This should be a last resort to avoid your home being repossessed – it generally costs more over the life of the loan. Refinancing may be a more effective option.
If you lose your job, apply for unemployment benefits early – to keep money coming in while you look for work. Be sure to see your accountant and financial adviser too. They may be able to help you find savings and avoid costly mistakes that you never knew were possible.