How to save money on your groceries
Do you know why they put lollies, magazines and icy cold cans of Coca-Cola by the register? It’s not rocket science is it. Make a shopping list and stick to it. If it’s not on the list, don’t buy it.
- Stop buying bottled water. What are you, a Hollywood movie director? Are you allergic to tap water?
- Buy a refillable bottle of water and take it with you everywhere, especially in the car.
- Don’t be fooled by discount pricing stickers. Special deals for two or more goods might only save you a few cents and you’ll end up buying more than you need. That’s why they put the stickers on things – so you spend more money buying more than you need. There will always be discounts on supermarket items, if you don’t need two cans of deodorant this time, don’t buy two. It’ll cost you twice as much but you won’t smell twice as good. You will smell slightly poorer.
- If the specials really are good value, get a deep freezer and buy meat or frozen goods in bulk. You can vacuum seal the goods and keep them for years.
- Do a big shop once a month to stock up on non-perishable items, it’ll give you a nice stash of supplies (handy in case of zombie apocalypse) and then make weekly trips for fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Once you’ve got your big stash of supplies, you can go grocery shopping from your own cupboard once a week – if you have a pack of flour, a sachet of yeast and a tin of tomatoes, you can make pizza.
- Buy supermarket brand products. Paper towel is paper towel. Bleach is bleach. What’s on the label doesn’t make a difference to what’s inside.
How to save money on your household bills and expenses
- Ditch your home phone line in favour of a mobile-only deal. Do you really need a home phone these days?
- Ensure your home is as energy-efficient as possible so you don’t waste money on excessive cooling and heating. North-facing windows help, as do insulation and proper curtains to block out the heat and cold.
- Set your air conditioning to 18 degrees in Winter and put on a jumper. Set it to 24 degrees in Summer and put on a T-Shirt.
- Grow your own vegetables. Tomatoes are cheap, easy to grow and tasty. Don’t bother with baby spinach or lettuce, you’ll send an entire Summer looking after enough leaves for one sandwich.
- In Winter, heat the house first thing in the morning while the off peak tariff is still active and then turn the heating off (assuming it’s not snowing outside) when the peak tariff kicks in. The house will hold heat until the sun starts to warm things up.
- Put water in things to extend them: hand soap; toothpaste; gin etc.
- Switch your appliances off at the wall rather than leaving them on standby mode. It won’t make you a millionaire, but it will save you a few hundred dollars or so a year.
- Op shop. The quality can be hit and miss, but hey, like Forest Gump’s mum used to say, life is like a box of chocolates, and you never know what you’re going to get.
- Buy a lot of your clothes at Target and Kmart. Unlike when you were a kid, the people who buy clothes for Target have access to the internet and they know what the latest styles look like.
- Hang your clothes out to dry whenever you can. Clothes dryers generate heat by burning cash.
How to save money on your home
Unless you’re Her Royal Highness (or a hobo), a home is the biggest expense you’re likely to have to fork out for. The bigger they come, they harder they fall though, and your home is also the best place to find the greatest savings.
If you own a home, probably the best way for you to save money overall is to pay the mortgage back as quickly as you can. You pay interest on the balance of your mortgage, so the more you pay back the bank, the less interest you pay on the loan. This will help your household cash flow, as every dollar you pay in interest is a dollar you can’t invest somewhere else.
- Residential property usually goes up in value over time – hence the term ‘safe as houses’, but there are no guarantees. Latest stats from RP Data show that around 9.1% of houses in Australia are sold at a loss. In the USA there are entire neighbourhoods vacant because the prices crashed so far below what the owners paid for them, the bank had to foreclose. Avoid losing money on your house by buying smart, doing your research about comparable sales in the area, and avoiding buying ‘lemons’. If the house has been sitting on the market for a while when you buy it, chances are, it’ll be sitting on the market for a while when you want to sell it. Generally speaking, the longer a house sits on the market, the cheaper the price.
- If you want the best long term savings, buy the worst house on the best street. The value of the land should go up over time and you can always renovate the house later.
- If you want the best short term savings, rent the worst house on the worst street – but be prepared to put up with some lively neighbours.
- Do the maths on owning your own home versus renting. You might be surprised at the results.
- Have you got an investment property? An investment property can be a great way to take advantage of the tax deduction you can get from negative gearing, and it’s great to have a place by the nearest coastline/lake/mountain for family holidays, but it’s worth doing some serious sums on the return you’re getting. You might find you’d be financially better off renting someone else’s house for a week than buying your own investment property and you might even be able to afford a nicer level of accommodation if someone else is paying the mortgage.
- If you do have an investment property, paying down the home loan on the place you live in is usually a better way of saving money than paying down an investment property, as there are no tax deductions on the debt on your own home.
- Lose your ‘grass is always greener’ mentality. You don’t need to live in the best suburb in the city. If the schools and amenities are great, who cares where you live?
- Live a little further out from the city than you’d planned. You’ll spend more on transport, but if you save more in rent or mortgage repayments, it could be a win.
- Move to the countryside. The cost of living is so much cheaper (and the air is cleaner).
How to save money by being smarter with your finances
Being smarter with your housing finances is the biggest way to save money, but the best way to save money is by keeping a budget and sticking to it. Not sure how to start? Here’s the template we use for The Granfields monthly budget. It’s based on the costs of living in Australia, the USA and the UK. Stick to a budget, and consider these tips, and you’ll be well on your way.
Get rid of debt. Debt is the easiest way to lose money (which is the opposite of saving money). There’s no point having $1,000 in a savings account earning you 2.5% per year (i.e. $25) while you’ve got a $1,000 credit card balance costing you 18% (i.e. $180) per year. Clear your debts before you get too carried away with saving. Obviously you need money for a rainy day, but clear your low-hanging debt first.
- Switch your home loan to a better value bank.
- If you do have some money to park, shop around for a high interest savings account. You’ll get almost as good a deal as a term deposit, but you’ll have your money at call.
- Set up a savings plan into your savings account with a regular direct debit out of your salary (as per your budget). Hide the money somewhere you can’t see it with a different bank to your main financial institution.
- Pay your credit card off each month.
- Take advantage of 0% balance transfer offers, but have a plan (and a budget) to escape the debt cycle. If you keep rolling your money into 0% balance transfers, your credit history is going to look a bit dodgy and you’ll look like a higher risk person to lend money to, which will cost you more when you’re going for a car loan or personal loan – or, worse, prevent you from getting a car loan or home loan.
- If you really want to save serious money, consider looking at the share market and finding stocks that pay healthy dividends. You might find you get more in dividend payments than bank interest. Shares are higher risk, of course, but with interest rates so low around the globe, they can be a better option than a boring old bank account, and you might make a capital gain along the way. Just be aware you could also make a capital loss.
- Once you’ve figured out your household budget, allocate an amount of cash for the week and put that in your wallet/purse. Don’t let yourself go over.
- If you have a mortgage, get an offset account and put all your income into that offset account each month. Pay for all your expenses with a credit card and then pay off the credit card at the end of the month. The money in your offset account will reduce the amount of interest you have to pay on your home loan, and if you play your cards right, you’ll earn points on your credit card.
- Choose a credit card wisely. 70,000 bonus frequent flyer points might seem like a good sign-up offer, but not if the annual fee is $800 a year. Carefully evaluate the annual fee you’ll have to pay, think about how much you spend each month, and make sure you’re going to earn back in useful points more than you’ll pay in annual fees. (Tip: it is highly unlikely you will earn back in useful points more than you will pay in annual fees).
How to save money on entertainment
When a family visit to a theme park will set you back around $350 (before you even get close to the food court), and two adult and two kids’ movie tickets cost upwards of $45, there’s never been a better time to stop and smell the roses. The best things in life, after all, are free.
Have a picnic in the park. Get the cricket/baseball bats out. Run around. Experience life outdoors.
- Go to a museum. Many public museums are free, or close to free. Take advantage of that – you might even learn something.
- Go for a walk somewhere adventurous. You don’t have to climb Mount Everest, walk the Appalachian trail or climb Mount Kosciuszko to get a bit of excitement. Sydney’s Bondi to Coogee walk is a classic, Central Park in New York has acres of space to explore, and your local city council will almost certainly have a list of interesting thing to check out with your legs.
- Brush up on your local history with a walking tour of your city.
- Repeat with the city next door. And so on.
- Schedule in a good old fashioned games day. Host an annual household Monopoly/Uno/Snakes and Ladders/Grand Theft Auto/Call of Duty/Mario Kart championship at your house.
- Build a cubby house out of cardboard boxes and have a picnic in your backyard.
- Borrow a projector from work, hang a sheet in the backyard and have your own outdoor cinema for the weekend. Invite the neighbours. Serve home made lemonade. Get the kids to charge admission to cover the cost.
- Get a book on craft and make stuff from flowers, sticks, food dye, dirt, leaves, paper. You might even create something worth framing.
- Go on an epic treasure hunt.
How to save money on transport
Car pool with a group of friends or colleagues. There are also lots of car-pooling websites to help you find a buddy if no one you know lives near you.
- Use Uber instead of taxis. Uber is generally a little bit cheaper, and, in our experience, a lot nicer.
- Get to know your city’s public transport system. It might be cheaper to get off one stop earlier than you’re used to. Going to the beach on the weekend might be easier on the bus than trying to find and pay for parking.
- Shop around for the best price on petrol. Lots of state motoring bodies keep an eye on things for you.
- Use your fuel-saving shop a dockets. 4c a litre here and there adds up over the year. If you’ve got a 60L tank, and you fill it once a week, you’ll save around $125 a year.
- Don’t over-spend at the petrol station to save money though. Don’t be fooled by ‘spend $10 in store and save’ deals. Spending $10 you weren’t going to spend in the first place is a really bad way of saving an extra $2.40 off the tank of fuel. And do you really need a bottle of water?
- Put your ego aside and buy a cheaper, more economical car. Diesel vehicles are often the cheapest to run. A Diesel Volkswagen Polo can drive from New York to Los Angeles on a tank of melted butter.
- Walk to work once a week (assuming you are not an astronaut).
- Ride your bike to work once a week.
- Work from home once a week, or arrive earlier to beat the traffic and avoid sitting in gridlock.
How to save money on the things you probably shouldn’t be spending so much money on
As woody allen said, you can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred. You can still have a good time whilst being a bit more miserly though.
Drink your coffee at home in the morning. You’ll save a few dollars a day and it will all add up.
- Home brew. You can make excellent beer at home and you’ll save anywhere between 50% and 70% on the cost of buying it at the liquor store. Read up on what you’re doing, brew under the right conditions, and your beer will also taste a lot better than XXXX Gold, Bud Light, or whatever else you’ve been drinking lately.
- If you have a sweet tooth, put yourself on rations and learn to live with less. Cut your intake by 50% and savour what you’ve got.
- Volunteer to be the designated driver. You’ll win friends, brownie points and save money.
- Do you really need to buy a magazine? Can you seriously not get the information/celebrity gossip you need from the internet?
- Statistically speaking, you will not win the lottery. Why do you think Jamie Packer ditched the family media business and started a casino empire? Because casinos make more money than gamblers do. If you’re looking for a financial thrill, the stock market is a safer bet than the roulette wheel.
- Quit smoking. It’s an expensive habit and it will kill you. Funerals are expensive.
- If you insist on smoking, no problem, it’s a free world, but at the very least learn to roll your own.
- Re-use your tea bags. Leave them in a bit longer the second time around.
- Buy cleanskin wine. It’s often as good as the stuff you just paid $30 for.
How to save money on food
Buying two chocolate bars for $5 when the price of one is $3 isn’t a good deal. It’s not even a good deal if the price of one chocolate bar is $4. It’s still not a good deal even if the price of one chocolate bar is $4.95. If you only need one chocolate bar, you’re not saving money by spending more than you were going to in the first place.
- Do you really need that chocolate bar? Why don’t you buy a bag of apples to snack on instead.
- Supermarkets advertise cheap ‘loss-leading’ food items to get you in the store, like $1 bread and $2 milk. Spare a thought for the farmers who have to contend with a deflated milk price, and think about the bigger issues around supporting primary producers, but if you’re comfortable you know the back-story behind your super-cheap bananas, a bargain is a bargain.
- Bananas, a bag of carrots, apples and your garden variety fruit and veg staples are not only a lot better for you than mass-produced snacks, they’re also a lot cheaper.
- Make sure you check the price per unit of weight rather than the price overall. Especially when it comes to meat.
- Cheaper cuts of meat aren’t just cheaper, they’re also tastier. Fat and sinew turn into pure delicious when cooked correctly. Chicken thighs are way more flavoursome than chicken breasts. Slow cooked gravy beef will be one of the tastiest meals you make this Winter.
- Learn to cook. If you know what you’re doing in the kitchen, you’ll save huge amounts of money, and you’ll be able to use ingredients you previously would have thrown away.
- Learn some basic butchery skills. If you can carve a chop off a lamb rack, you’ll save $5 a kilo.
- Don’t go shopping when you’re starving. Eat a snack before you go. Or buy yourself a snack while you’re in there. You’ll spend more on food if you’re hungry.
- Eat a balanced diet. McDonald’s might seem cheap now, but in 30 years time when you’re a fat bastard and are discussing heart surgery/liposuction with your expensive doctor, you’ll be wishing you spent a little more on the broccoli and kale early on.
How to save money on technology and home appliances
Shop at Kogan, and other online retailers to get the best deal.
- Buy second hand. Do you really need a brand new dryer, or can you pick one up from a second hand store for $100 less?
- Buy big-ticket, and imported items when the dollar/pound/euro/monopoly money is high. When the currency drops, the cost of imported goods goes up.
- Check your phone plan. Have you got the right amount of data and calls? Are you paying more than you need to?
- Why are you making phone calls using a phone network? Use Skype.
- Do you REALLY need a new phone?
- Hot tip: Android phones are better and cheaper than Apple phones. Android phones are also cool now. Apple phones are on the way out. It’s a win:win.
- Can you get a better deal on home internet?
- You don’t really need nice pots and pans. We make perfect omelettes every Sunday morning in a $12 supermarket saucepan.
How to save money without even trying
Walk to the supermarket in your lunch break and buy your lunch ingredients fresh each day. You get a walk, ramp up the steps on your Fitbit, and it’s cheaper than buying a ready made sandwich or salad. You can also have as much avocado as you want. You can have the whole avocado. You can have two of them. You can make a chicken sandwich with three avocados if you want, and it’ll still be cheaper than ordering avocado as an extra at Subway. Developed as a way to get around the lunch budget.
- Sales people usually have monthly and yearly targets to meet. Wait until the end of the month, or the end of the financial year (or better still, the end of the month at the end of the financial year) and you’re more likely to find a desperate salesperson who’s desperate to do you a deal. This theory applies particularly well to cars, but the same is true for home loans, home appliances, boats, and pretty much anything you can get in a shop.
- Don’t get over-excited about saving money. Think about the hidden costs of saving – driving five kilometres out of your way to save 1c a litre on petrol might cost you more than filling up where you are.
- Wash the car yourself (or pay the kids to do it).
- Eat at Ikea.
- Get a budget/spending app on your phone and you’ll know where your money goes.
- Ask for gift vouchers as presents instead of presents. Use the gift vouchers to buy things you need. Yes: you will be a cheapskate; who cares.
- Learn how to make cheap, easy meals yourself. You’ll save a fortune on takeaway and pre-made foods. A home made pizza might cost as little as $1, versus at least $5 for a frozen pizza, and more like $10 for a takeaway pizza. You’re saving 500-1000% by making your own.
- Share with your neighbours/friends/family.
- Shower with a friend.
The golden rule for saving money
- Don’t spend money. Sounds obvious right? But it’s the only way to really make a big dent on your bank balance. Every time you go to pull out your wallet, think to yourself ‘do I really need this?’ and ‘is there a cheaper option’.
Disclaimer: Please consider your own financial situation and speak to a qualified accountant or financial advisor before determining whether any of these tips are right for you. Matt, who wrote most of these tips, is a notoriously bad saver who drives and Alfa Romeo. His advice has been vetted by Bec, but should be taken with grains of salt. Which are, by the way, very cheap.