As Aussies start counting the costs of festive splurging, one money expert has revealed how to start the new year on the right foot - a financial health check.
Despite the cost-of-living crisis, Finder data shows Aussies collectively spent $30 billion on Christmas – 10 per cent more than in 2022 – which works out at an average of $1,470 per spend.
Victoria Devine, the founder of She’s On The Money, told Yahoo Finance that figure was "absurd", given statistics show "one in three Aussies are unable to scrape together $500 in an emergency" and that they were forced to "rely on credit cards".
The Melbourne author, who hosts the podcast Who's Asking - which has landed 30 million downloads - said Aussies should invest as much effort into their financial health as their physical and mental well-being, adding that January was the perfect time to overhaul bank accounts and get back on track.
Rather than creating a strict list of New Year’s resolutions or lofty wishes on a vision board, Devine suggested picking a realistic end-of-year result and working backwards, month by month, to figure out how to achieve it.
"You want to put yourself in the best possible position by setting achievable goals," she told Yahoo Finance.
"Eighty per cent fall off the bandwagon when it comes to financial goals by February, so you need to get on the right foot. How many people say, ‘I want to save $10,000 by the end of the year?’ There are smaller things you can do."
According to figures from CommBank, one in three Aussies said they couldn't handle a major unexpected expense, while one in two said they wouldn't have enough money to get through a temporary loss of income.
Devine said looking at ways to make money outside of your regular income would help achieve your goals faster, such as taking on overtime, a second job, a side hustle that could be done in your spare time, or doing a "huge cull" of your belongings and seeing if you had anything to sell.
Checking apps such as Airtasker is another way to make a quick buck, with one woman making $500 by responding to a male romantic’s ad asking for someone to help him plan a marriage proposal.
"People advertise so many things," Devine said.
However, one thing she didn’t advocate was "missing out" by skipping that morning coffee, little luxuries or activities that make you look or feel good and improve health and mental well-being. Instead, Devine encouraged Aussies to find alternative ways to get what they wanted.
For instance, she suggested ditching expensive gym memberships in favour of walking or running, or trialling credit-based, cancel-any-time apps such as ClassPass to access a variety of studios, gyms, salons, and spas.
"Humans hate loss," Devine said. "If I am taking something from you, you might think, 'What if I wanted that?' But you might also realise you didn’t like it."
While she said "money can’t make you happy", taking the financial pressure off families, in particular, was a huge step towards improving physical and mental well-being – such as being able to save for that new car or much-needed holiday.
"I think it’s more than saying, 'I have money in the bank'," Devine said. "You need to zoom out and look at the big picture and not assume that money is going to solve all our problems. Money is one thing we all have in common. People could be getting by but not have the life they want to live."
Devine's top tips for good financial health
1. Do a finance check – such as listing how many streaming services or apps you are subscribed to and whether you’ve used them in the past three to six months.
2. Shop around for the best deals on major household expenses such as home, car and health insurance, internet and phone bills, gas and electricity, and credit cards.
3. Shift away from established companies to smaller providers – which are often backed by big brands – or negotiate with your current providers for a better deal.