How much we spend and save every week comes down to hundreds of small financial habits we repeat over and over again.
When it comes to real savings there is never going to be just one ‘silver-bullet’ solution. You have to find small ways to save in all areas of your life.
Each tip we’ve compiled below might not seem life changing on its own but collectively can help put more money back in your pocket for the important things in life.
Saving in the home
- Learn more recipes: Adding variety to your regular meal rotation will mean you look forward to eating at home and help to suppress the impulse to eat out.
- Meal plan to use every last scrap of everything you purchase: If a salad like this can sell in New York, you’ve got no excuse for throwing out anything.
- Switch off appliances at the source: Studies show you could save as much as $100 annually by flicking the switch on devices you aren’t using.
- Cut out Netflix and Foxtel: With platforms like ABC iView, SBS on demand and all the commercial stations streaming online there are plenty of things to watch for free.
- Grow your own vegetables, citrus fruits and herbs: Even if you live in an apartment, lemons and limes grow well in pots, and herbs will quite happily prosper on a sunny balcony or a light drenched windowsill.
- Don’t load your cupboards with specific-use products: Baking soda, vinegar and vaseline are just a few examples of products that can do the job of 100s of expensive cleaning, personal-care and conditioning products.
- Keep a list of foods you throw away: Do this for a while and you’ll begin to notice patterns and can change your buying habits.
- Make a grocery list for the week. Work out your household’s needs and stick to them.
- Use unit-pricing: Knowing cost per 100g is the only way to get a true idea of value. This study showed that shoppers who checked unit pricing saved an average of 17-18% on their weekly shop.
- Don’t dismiss frozen fruit and vegetables: Compare prices with the cost of fresh vegetables. Berries in particular are hard to justify buying fresh on a tight budget.
- Buy direct from farmers markets: You will get fresher food, eat seasonally and save.
- Base your meals on items that are nutritious and stay fresh for a long time: Use grains, lentils, legumes and beans as your meal bases.
- Never grocery shop when you’re hungry. Studies show that you will buy more than you need.
- Stock up on long life staples when they’re on special: Items like baked beans, tuna, cooking oil, peanut butter all get the “Half-Price’ treatment regularly. Never buy them at full price.
- Shop at your local Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern supermarket: If you make stir-fries or curries at home you’ll pay much less for the basic ingredients.
- Check out items on top and lower shelves: Companies pay more to have their items stocked at eye level.
- Change which supermarket you shop at each week: Compare the prices of groceries in weekly sales catalogues and by using free services like Trolley Saver to decide.
- Have meat and alcohol free days every week.
Invest now, save later
- Buy the most energy efficient appliances. They cost less to run and drain less energy when idle. You may also be entitled to government rebates when you purchase them, simply check with the supplier.
- Buy LED bulbs for every light fixture in your house: The extra amount you spend on these bulbs at the cash register will come back to you and then some. They are 5 times cheaper to run than regular globes and last 40 times longer.
- Buy a screen protector and phone case for your phone: A small investment when having a screen replaced can easily set you back well over $100.
- Every time you get a pay rise contribute more to your savings: It is very easy to just burn through the extra money. Save that money right from the start and you won’t have the chance to miss it.
- Buy a grinder for coffee beans and spices: This allows you to buy your beans and spices in bulk and grind them as you need, without having to worry about them going stale.
- If you can’t resist fizzy drinks – buy a Sodastream.
- Where possible, purchase your phone outright: The lure of the major phone companies is that they hand out new model smartphones when you sign a contract. However, bring-your-own phone plans can save you heaps on the monthly plan.
- Buy cordless headphones: The majority of headphones break when the cord comes loose from constantly getting caught and snagged through use. Eliminate this problem.
- Invest in Tupperware containers and ziplock bags: It makes it easier to store and keep leftovers so they stay good for longer.
- Get a quality reusable water bottle and take it with you everywhere: Paying for bottled water is a bad use of your money when you can get water from almost anywhere for free if you have a drink bottle.
Save at work
- Pack your own lunch EVERY day: It isn’t the most original suggestion, but a study has shown that the Aussie worker still spends an average of $1,548 a year on buying lunch at work. Do your part to bring that average down and ‘brown-bag’ it!
- Cut down on coffee: Even if you limit yourself to just a single barista coffee per working day, you’re still spending $910 a year on caffeine. There are plenty of cheaper coffee options to get you up and going.
- Keep snacks at your desk: Your best laid plans of packed lunches can count for little when 3 o’clock comes around and you’re convinced to take a walk to the nearest cafe for a snack, coffee and a bit of a break from your desk. Keep supermarket bought snacks at your drawer to satisfy the hunger and just walk around the block when you need a break.
- Use Freeware: Expensive software like Microsoft Office almost always have open source alternatives that are completely free like Google Docs or Openoffice. Check online before paying for any program.
- Don’t buy into the ‘cutting-edge’ model: You don’t need the newest model every time you need to upgrade your phone or computer. New models usually have a 50% price-drop in under 24 months.
- Use smart online shopping tools: There are plenty out there but browser apps like Honey and The Camelizer can ensure you always get the best possible price for any product online.
- Automate your savings: You can make weekly direct deposits into your savings account or use apps like Acorns, which round up every purchase you make to the nearest dollar and invest it for you.
- Charge your equipment correctly: The battery is often the first thing to fail in equipment like phones and laptops, be sure to charge regularly and to do it in the right way – a full charge from 0 to 100% can actually reduce your batteries capacity when done too often.
Transportation and Travel Tips
- Cycle or walk to work if possible.
- Early bird & off-peak discounts: In Melbourne, train travel before 7am is free to lighten the load of peak hour transport. Most other major cities offer heavily discounted public transport fares when travelling before 7am or after 8.30pm.
- If you own two cars, consider switching to be a one car household: The money you can save on car insurance, fuel and maintenance can add up to thousands.
- Rent instead of buying: If you really only need wheels every now and then you can rent a car by the hour with services such as GoGet.
- Carpool with workmates or friends
- Give yourself the time to take public transport: When making a trip, plan enough time to get there via the train, tram or bus and save on fuel and parking.
- Download a petrol price tracking app.
- Never go to a travel agent again: Comparison sites, like Expedia and Skyscanner, have made travel agent fees redundant.
- Maximise travel points from credit cards: There is a whole online community based around finding the best credit card point deals so you can get flights for as little as possible. Read more about it here.
- Clear your browser history when buying flights: It has been suggested that airlines will change their prices based on your browser history.
Being healthy = a healthy bank balance
- Choose complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates: Things like wholemeal flour, whole grain bread, wholemeal pasta, basmati rice and brown rice cost roughly the same as their processed equivalents but make you feel fuller for longer.
- Swap gym memberships for exercising outside: Run, walk, cycle, swim and use your own bodyweight for resistance training.
- Combine your work commute with exercise: Run walk or cycle to work where possible, and save on fuel, parking or public transport costs
- Make water your default beverage: Water is free and incredibly good for you (it’s kind of like you were made to drink it).
- Only use cash when you’re shopping: The first stop in any shop should be the ATM. Many studies show we spend more conservatively when we are handing over cash than we do with plastic.
- Use a basket instead of a trolley: If you have to carry your items, you’ll be less inclined to load the basket up. Research shows that when we use trolley we are more likely to fill them up.
- Research the products you buy in depth: Spending more money on nicer things can save you in the long run. Many brands have a reputation for longevity, so they cost more upfront, but their lifetime cost is much cheaper.
- Before making an online purchase, leave your items in a website’s ‘cart’ for a week: Often stores will send automatic emails to prompt users who have abandoned their carts, offering discounts to seal the deal.
- Hack the prices of online retailers: There is a loophole with some online retailers that can give you cheaper prices based on the currency you pay in. Companies like ASOS adjust for the expectations of shoppers from different countries by altering the price of products across different currencies. However, there is nothing to stop you changing your order manually from Australian dollars to British pounds and knocking five or six dollars of your purchase price.
- Buy used clothes: Buying at op-shops is thrifty and with a bit of patience you can uncover some genuine bargains. Hot-tip: travel to the swankiest areas when op-shopping and ask what days they put out their new donations.
- Have a cool-off wishlist: You rarely need the things right when you buy them. Give yourself 30 days before you actually make any purchase, then you’ll know if you really want it.
- Rent instead of buying: You can rent almost anything. From dresses or tuxedos for weddings to surfboards to power tools. If you won’t get enough use out of something to justify buying it outright, rent it instead.
- Buy items when they’re out of season: If you wait until winter to buy a jacket, you’ll be paying peak price. Anything seasonal is cheaper when it isn’t in demand (apart from food where the opposite often applies!).
- Ask yourself: “How will I feel about this tomorrow?”: It is a simple psychological test that works. Think you’ll feel happy? Buy it! Panicked? Skip it!
- Don’t buy items that you wouldn’t usually just because they’re on sale: Don’t get sucked in by sales that aren’t actually going to help your bottom line.
Finding the Discounts
- Start using the benefits you already have access to: Most energy, insurance and financial companies offer exclusive benefits to their customers.
- Bookmark discount websites in your web browser: Websites like Scoopon and Catch of the Day update with deals daily and you’re bound to find products and experiences that appeal to you if you check it often enough.
- Set online alerts for products on your wishlist: Websites like eBay and Gumtree allow you to set emails alerts when postings with specific terms are posted. This gives you first chance at the ones with the best prices.
- Actually trial free trials: Many subscription-based services offer a free trial to get you to join. Instead of just letting it roll over to paid accounts, try them all. It will save money and you’ll end up picking the best one for the long run.
- Get cash back from online purchases: There are websites that will literally pay you for shopping online through their website. This is how it works: instead of going directly to an online store you find a link on a ‘cashback’ website to get there instead. The online store then tracks how much you spend and gives a commission to the cashback website for referring you. Finally, the cashback website kicks some of that commission back to you. Money for nothing!
- Look for coupons for everything you buy
Save on Services and Amenities
- Use professionals in training: From hairdressers, to masseuses, to physios, to dentists. Every profession has students that need to practice their craft. You can often ‘help them out’ for little to no cost.
- Do your own tax: The Government’s myTax program is free and suitable enough for most people with uncomplicated finances.
- Google anything before you ring a tradie: Many maintenance problems can be fixed with a simple Youtube video.
- Use less water with low flow shower heads and taps: These can save up to 40% of your water use.
Making what you’ve got last longer
- Getting further from a tank of petrol: There are many habits you can develop on the road so you don’t burn as much fuel. A study showed that the difference in fuel efficiency between driving 90km/h and 120km/h can be as much as 20%. Other tips include: always driving with properly inflated tyres and turning off the engine when you’ll be idling more than a minute.
- Cut your dishwashing sponges in half: Most sponges are thrown out because they get too dirty not because they break down.
- Water down your bathroom hand soap: You mix it with water in the sink anyway. Cut down on wastage by mixing it in an empty hand pump bottle first.
- Store salad with a paper towel in the fridge: Paper will absorb moisture and keep your salad from wilting for longer.
- Alternate between pairs of shoes: Swapping will give your shoes enough time to decompress and decrease wear and tear.
- Repair before you replace: Home repairs of clothing and even professional tailoring can double the lifespan of your garments. The same often applies to shoes.
- Replace the broken part, not the entire product: Sometimes your phone just needs a new battery, or your laptop needs added RAM. You may not always need an entirely new product so ask a professional before you replace.
- Make printer ink go further with an eco-font: Eco-fonts are fonts that have tiny holes throughout the body of the letters (here is an example). They minimise the amount of ink used when printing.
- Hang your sheets and clothing out to dry when possible: They will last longer and you will also save money on using a dryer.
Change your mindset and your habits
- Save up any ‘extra’ windfalls: Human beings have an instinct to treat money differently based on how they obtained it. Unexpected ‘extra cash’ is usually splurged and ends up adding no benefit to your financial situation.
- Save money just by asking for a better price: It won’t work every time, but particularly for bills, medical expenses, memberships and big purchases you can get the price knocked down just by asking.
- Catch up with friends at home: Real friends will be happy to catch up at your place or head somewhere cheap and cheerful, like a nearby beach or park.
- Save your change: Buy one of those big money tins that you can’t open without a can-opener and put all your coins into it. When you cash it in at the end of the year you’ll easily see upwards of $500 returns.
- Cut your own hair … or where possible, find a hairdresser that operates out of their home, as they are often cheaper than retail salons with high overheads, such as rent.
- Don’t pay ATM fees EVER: Australians pay $787.8 million a year in completely unnecessary ATM fees. Plan your withdrawals and avoid them altogether.
- Actually save the money you get from specials: When you buy something that is marked down, don’t just use the extra cash on something else. Put it in a savings account.
- Save when things don’t go to plan: If you have plans to go to a movie and get cancelled on, put the money you would have spent into savings. You were prepared to spend that money anyway, so treat it like you have and put it towards the future.
- Don’t wait until you need something to buy it: When it comes to necessary items, if you wait until they break and are unusable, you won’t have time to find a good price.
- Find free hobbies: If you spend your time doing things like reading, hiking, playing chess or catching up with like minded people in meetup groups, then you can still enjoy your spare time without having to put your hand in your pocket.
- Join the library: Your local library is an untapped resource for books, magazines, comic books, DVDs and music.
- Hit back on hidden fees: When signing up to a new service explicitly ask them if there are any charges other than the ones discussed. If you pay hidden fees, dispute them and you will often get them reversed.
- Don’t be afraid to say when something you have bought has disappointed you: If you have paid for something, you have the right to request a refund. If your complaint is legitimate, you’ll often get a refund. On the flipside, writing to companies you like with compliments can also have awesome benefits.
- Learn the value of your time: Think about how many hours it took you to earn the equivalent amount of money before you think about parting with it.
- Save when you come in under budget: There is no point budgeting unless you take advantage of it when it works.
Keep the fun times rolling (for less):
- Take supermarket snacks to the cinemas: Movie popcorn is one of the biggest cons going around. Popcorn and soft-drink combos can see markups as high as 3,000% on cost price. Save by dropping into Coles or Woolworths on your way to the theatre.
- Eat out at BYO restaurants: If you like to have a drink with your meal, choosing restaurants that let you bring your own booze can save you a lot on the bill, even once corkage costs are factored in.
- Party at home before heading out: ‘Pre-drinks’ is a closely observed ritual of uni students all over the country for a very good reason. It can cut the cost of a night out in half.
- Tightarse Tuesdays (and other days): From movies, to bowling, to parmas, to yoga classes – so many businesses have a ‘cheap night’ to lure in the frugal crowd. Take advantage of them!
- Free events: Websites like What’s On and Timeout are a great way for keeping your finger on the pulse of upcoming free events, from live concerts to art galleries – there is plenty of stuff on, if you know where to look.
Got any other great ways to save and would like to share with the Nimble community, we’d love to hear from you! Drop us a quick note in our comments section below.
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