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How to earn $7,000 while in self-isolation

How self-isolation could prove lucrative. Source: Getty

If you’re like most Aussies, you’ve stocked up on toilet paper. If you’re like me, you’ve panic-purchased wine and chocolate. 

Regardless, if we’re all likely to be largely confined to our homes at some stage, and possibly soon, is there a way to use the bonus time to boost your bottom line?

Because the fact is that time-poor is usually a top cause (behind foolish frittering) of us all being more poor.  

Sure, there’s nothing usual about this and some readers could take an income hit… others could even lose their jobs. But some handout help has already been announced (listed below) and a second, much-more-significant round is being drafted as I type. 

Plus, there are ways to swing this madness to your advantage. 

1. Pull the pin on profiteering providers

Probably every provider you use, for everything from your energy to your car insurance, is ripping you off. Or they are if you’ve used them for more than two years. 

Progressively cheaper deals elsewhere – especially for new customers – mean you could now easily be wasting more than $3000 a year – say, $300 on gas and electricity, $400 on your mobile and internet, $1500 on your health insurance and $1000 on the average $20,000 personal loan (on which interest rates haven’t budged despite the RBA’s emergency cuts).

Likely, it’s your busy life that’s kept you throwing away this money year after year. Well, it looks like we are about to be given the gift of time… and you could save some $3000 by ditching dodgy providers using my favourite price comparison websites*: 

  • energymadeeasy.gov.au or compare.energy.vic.gov.au, yup, for your energy,

  • whistleout.com.au for your telecommunications, 

  • privatehealth.gov.au for your private health 

  • straight-up Google for house and car insurance and 

  • mozo.com.au for your personal loans.   

But by far the most lucrative start to your ‘self-isolation streamline’ will be a sanity check of your mortgage. Does it start with the number 2? If not, you are haemorrhaging money.

Think about an average $400,000 mortgage (with apologies for the body blow if you’re in Sydney or Melbourne and have had to borrow far more). 

As recently as last month the Big 4 headline comparison rate was still up near 5 percent. That means you’ve had to find as much as $2339 a month for repayments.  

Today, you could be paying as little as 2.5 percent in a good-quality loan (Note: you don’t want the cheapest loan but the cheapest loan with a real offset account, which will be from an authorised deposit-taking institution).

That one move will cut your costs by $524 a month, to $1815.

To find the loan that will save you the most, I like canstar.com.au*, finder.com.au* or mozo.com.au*.   

2. Turn unloved clothes into quantities of cash

My favourite piece of what I call stinge-spiration is the cupboard cleanout. What doesn’t fit anymore? What have you simply fallen out of love with? And are there any designer or vintage items in there? 

Fashion and money-savvy Aussies are cutting out the middleman from retail and e-tail stores that sell your clothes on consignment, to do it themselves from home… and that’s perfect (even if you have to build in a little delivery delay – everyone understands right now). 

Here, Instagram’s great. And your photos – there are some great free/cheap photography apps out there, such as Snapseed and Hipstamatic – and hashtags are key. Some of the best right now include #shopmywardrobe, #shopconsignment, #resalenotretail and #resaleboutique. 

Think bigger too. You could use Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and eBay for a declutter of all things. Could you can make money out of unused goods you have lying around? 

Hopefully a lucrative little house-bound hustle!

3. Get your tax refund in every pay

I wrote about this recently and, all of a sudden, you may have a moment or two – and the money motivation – to cash in on it. After all, why would you let the Tax Office keep your money for a year or even more, while you struggle to make your money stretch week after week?

Here is the magic form to bring your refund forward into every single helpful pay.

 4. Give your super a health check 

First of all: take a deep breath and calculate what’s called your investment timeline. How many years until you can access your super, at probably age 60? 

If there’re more than 10 you should be alert but not alarmed by what’s happening on financial markets. In fact, you should probably even be cautiously buying. You have time to recover the losses and, as soon as this thing is over and the news again positive, the market could enjoy a big bounce. 

Even without a cent extra to invest today, you can snare and share in the recovery by both paying the lowest fees and using the freebies. 

First to fees: these act as a natural impediment to performance – and with investment, they’re the only variable you can control. 

Dig out that super statement and make sure you’re paying no more than the median for a balanced fund (if yours is this; with about 70 percent invested in shares and the rest split among other assets): 1.08 percent according to SuperRatings.  

When the dust settles on all of this, you’ll also want to check your fund has preserved a decent amount for you. Stay tuned for a future column on those that best weathered the storm. 

Finally to freebies. OK both of these strategies require you to put money in… but if you can you’ll immediately get bonus back and you’ll get to snap up shares at current cheaper prices. 

If some people who are working make a $1000 payment into their super fund, they’ll get up to $500 tipped in on top from the government. This is called the co-contribution and is available for incomes up to $53,564.

And even if someone is not working, a spouse who pays in $3000 for them will be eligible for a tax offset of up to $540. This one is called the spouse contribution and works on incomes up to $40,000. 

5. Skill up to secure a higher salary – and shore up your future

Ok, this one will probably also cost you money up front, but an investment in yourself is one of the best you can make if you can get a decent future return on that investment. 

There’s a wealth of choices online, in the comfort of your contamination-free home. 

A final word: In self-isolation, your entertainment costs will plummet. Just try to replace this with binge watching via our cheap streaming services – or even throw yourself on the mercy of free-to-air TV – rather than online shopping!

The economy-boosting handouts we know about

Those in receipt of any type of payment, benefit or concession from Centrelink are in luck: you’ll get a $750 handout from the government in the couple of weeks commencing from the end of March. 

Those who are casual and not eligible for sick leave, can get payments at the Newstart rate with only (we’re assured) a five-day processing delay.

The obligations of Newstart will also be waived if you’re directed by the government or a medical professional to self-isolate, with no requirement to job search or provide a medical certificate. 

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* All comparison sites filter out products to favour the providers that pay. You need to find the hidden, what-I-call "bias button" to see the real best deals for you. You’re looking for a box or drop down that says something like “show sponsored links first” or “yes, just compare results with links”.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is the author of How to Get Mortgage-Free Like Me, available at www.nicolessmartmoney.com. Follow Nicole on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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