Financial freedom is not attained by earning more money but by being wiser with what you’ve got.
Time for a bunch of tips to help save you a bucket of money.
Take your lunch to work or school. Taking last night’s leftovers or sandwiches will save you up to $20 a day. If you are thinking to yourself that you could not make your own lunch every day, team up with some colleagues to take it in turns to bring lunch for all of you on different days of the week. Taking lunch is my favourite tip for saving money.
I religiously take my lunch to work, usually sandwiches and fruit, a ritual that my colleagues had not failed to notice, and remind me of regularly. They used to hang a fair bit of crap on me about my sandwiches and I always said I’d get the last laugh. “How’s that?” they’d say. I would reply that one day I would come to work with no sandwiches and on this day – called No Sandwich Day, I would be debt free. At this point they would all laugh at me and say things like “Yeah, when you’re 60!” Then one day I arrived at work empty handed and said “Guys, it’s No Sandwich Day” and, as their jaws dropped in disbelief, I shouted them all a curry. They now have a greater respect for my sandwiches.
Car pool – save on petrol, parking and wear and tear.
Walk to the shops for small purchases.
Never shop when hungry, lonely or feeling down – retail therapy makes you feel great in the short term, but it doesn’t help your financial goals and can be much more expensive than other therapies. Also avoid buying things online when you are tired. You need to make sure that you check exactly what you are buying, where it’s being sent, how much it’s costing you and how to get your money back if things go wrong. Many owners of a Magic Bullet have woken up the next day to think “Oh God! What did I do at 2 am?”
Turn off the lights when you leave the room.
Join a library for free loans of books, CDs, DVDs, internet access, etc. If it has been a while since you set foot in a library, chances are they have changed a great deal. Gone are the days of the crusty librarian yelling at people for not being quiet enough, which was something I always thought was a little contradictory.
Rather than buying it, cook dinner and freeze the leftovers.
Buy generic or private label brands like Woolworths Essentilas/Homebrand and Coles Brand for items you can’t tell apart from the big name brands. For example nuts, milk, aluminium foil, flour, tinned vegies – if you can’t tell the difference, buy the cheapest one.
Even better, shop at Aldi and buy their home brands. There are more than 500 Aldi stores located in all states except for Tassie and the NT. Find your nearest store on Aldi’s website. This store is incredibly cheap – savings of up to 50% from what you would spend on a comparable basket of groceries at Coles and Woolworths are common. Source: Choice June 2015.
My German wife is biased towards Aldi as it’s a German company. But Claudia says she can’t taste the difference between Aldi food and food from Coles, Woolies or a smaller supermarket.
She should be saying food from a German store tastes better, and many people I’ve met will turn their noses up at Aldi because of the cheap food. According to Choice magazine, which is unbiased, consumers reported little or no difference in the taste of Aldi brand products compared to leading brand names. Ninety per cent of the products in Aldi are Australian, including over 90% of fresh fruit and veg, and 100% of the fresh meat.
In Germany, Aldi is not a really cheap supermarket when compared to other German stores. That’s not to say it’s expensive, just that most German supermarkets are run the same way as Aldi is here. Looking at this another way, Australians pay a lot of money to Coles and Woolies for the in-store music, deli and self-serve checkouts.
If you live in or close to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide or Canberra, purchase a Costco membership for $60 (or $55 if you run a business) and shop at a Costco discount warehouse. Unlike Aldi, Costco is designed for buying in bulk and offers some big savings off traditional shopping. You need to purchase a membership before you can shop at Costco, but they do offer a money back satisfaction guarantee. Shop there once or twice and your membership pays for itself. Especially if you get fuel there too. Want to know more? Have a look at the Costco website.
Subscribe to Choice magazine or Choice online on the Choice website and save yourself more than the cost of the subscription by changing to a cheaper and better brand. You’d be surprised how often the cheapest product in their various tests is rated as the best when the lowest score goes to one of the dearest (the price of the product has no bearing on their score). In Choice’s own words, a subscription is “Anti rip-off insurance.” Choice is also good if you are buying an item over $100 in value. Choice Shopper finds the best deal for you, and at no extra cost or obligation. Subscribers need the model name and number, and the price they want to beat then ring 1300 360 655 for the best deal around. *Disclosure* I am a voting member of Choice.
If you are a member of a union, your union membership may include access to Union Shopper, which works basically the same way as Choice Shopper. That’s if you’re buying new.
Buy second hand from furniture stores, garage sales or op shops. A colleague of mine, Ross, is a regular at garage sales, always hoping to stumble upon a car part for one of his historic motors. At one place he went to, the owner was running out of patience with the garage sale she was holding and she said to him “You can have any four items for 10 bucks.” “Hmmm, ok,” says Ross, “I’ll take that set of golf clubs, the Webber barbecue, the outdoor setting and that pot plant over there.” When he told me this story I was amazed – “You picked up a set of golf clubs for $2.50?!” “Well,” he replied, “Technically it was more than that because I didn’t really want the pot plant.”
Buy at auctions. There are places around that have regular auctions but you will have to do a bit of research in your area to find the local ones. If there are none in your area then get onto eBay. If you are interested in buying at an auction, check it out before you go to buy, so you know what to expect. There are some great bargains to be had at auctions.
Ask for a discount, you would be surprised how much cheaper you can get an item for if you say the words “Can you knock a few bucks off that for me?”
If they balk, offer to pay in cash.
Buy bulk packs or more of your usual items when they are on special. Don’t think that just because the nearest Costco is three days drive away from your house that you can’t buy in bulk.
Instead of soft drinks, drink cordial, or water. But don’t drink bottled water ’cause it’s a bloody rip off. Bottled water is up to 2,000 times more expensive than what you pay at home for tap water and, on occasion, water will fall from the sky for free. Australia is a very lucky country when it comes to water quality. All the capital cities as well as the vast majority of country towns and cities have water good enough to drink straight from the tap without fear of spending the next 24 hours weeing out your bum. There are a few places where the drinking water doesn’t smell the best and may not be crystal clear, but it sure beats anything our friends in Asia and Africa have access to.
Wear a jumper inside in winter, take it off in summer. I know I shouldn’t need to state the bleeding obvious, but I never cease to be amazed at the number of people who will crank up the heating to the high 20’s in June then roam around the house naked. Crazy. And the visiting Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t appreciate it either. You are much better off greeting them at your front door fully clothed, or possibly meeting them through their match making site.
Start a vegie garden. If your lemon tree is producing way more than you could use yourself or you end up with an abundance of apples, you can give the excess to neighbours or colleagues, or even sell them to people you meet up with on Ripe Near Me. This site brings together growers who have excess produce with people who want to eat it, and all without needing to leave your neighbourhood.
Rather than buying them, make gifts for people for Christmas and birthdays – especially for older people who really appreciate them. And instead of paying for the card that’s complimenting the gift, make that too. If you have kids, get them to make the card. There are few adults who don’t love seeing drawings of people with arms and legs sticking straight out of their heads, or reading a message with a couple of back-to-front letters.
If you are not into receiving gifts yourself but people still insist on giving them to you then check out Oxfam Unwrapped. Oxfam Unwrapped provides everything from literacy classes to those who need them in Cambodia, to ducks for villagers in Mozambique. You get a card with a photo of a piglet, someone in the third world gets a life changing gift.
Try to waste as little as you can. According to The Australia Institute, Australian households throw away $5.1 billion of food a year.
If you own your own place, install insulation – save on heating and cooling and feel more comfortable. If you’re renting, annoy the real estate agent until the landlord installs insulation. Insulation comes in many forms from expensive triple glazing on windows through to batts in the ceilings and walls, right down to draft stoppers and door seals. For a relatively small cost you can make quite a difference to the temperature in your home.
When you have found a product or service that you are after, ring around for a better price, telling each person you ring your lowest quote and asking if they can beat it.
Join Freecycle – a group where people give stuff they no longer want to people who do want it. With Freecycle you can get all sorts of things for free, but if you can’t find it on Freecycle, look for it (or give it away) on Ziilch.
When you go to the shops, take a list. Buy only what is on the list (unless you have forgotten something). Some businesses thrive on impulse buying (that’s buying things you didn’t want until you saw it). Don’t be sucked in by this marketing ploy.
You may have noticed that when you go into a supermarket to buy the two staples of milk and bread that they are always at opposite ends of the store (except in Aldi where they are next to one another). This is so you pick up the bread, walk past everything else in the store to get to the milk, see something that catches your eye and spend more than you had planned to.
Service stations have impulse buys (most noticeably chocolate bars and lollies) right next to the cash register. Most people who complain about the high cost of fuel don’t even realise that they have wasted money buying something on impulse that they neither needed, nor wanted until they saw it. Or until the person behind the counter asks “Would you like two Kit Kats for $3?” I like to answer that question with an inappropriately loud voice and fake smile – “Why yes, yes I would like two Kit Kats for $3!”, and then turn around and walk back to my car without buying them.
If you find you are unable to stop yourself from buying things on impulse, only take the cash you need to spend on your planned shopping, leaving the rest at home. Keep $20 emergency money in the car, under the spare tyre. Take only the shopping bags you plan to fill, once they are filled with the things on your list you are not tempted to impulse buy.
Or shop from home by using home shopping from supermarkets that offer this service over the internet as there are a few who do. Coles has a service called Click & Collect where you purchase groceries online then pick them up yourself at a specified location. Not all Coles stores offer it, however it is available in all states and terrotories. Not to be outdone, Woolworths offers the same online service, except that’s it’s “free”. *Note* The service might be free, but the grocery items will be marked up by an average of about 7% for online shopping at the big two supermarkets.
Although they don’t offer online shopping, you can print off a personalised shopping list (it’s on the top right of their home page) at the Aldi website and keep track of weekly specials with their smartphone app. IGA’s version includes a store locator and recipe ideas.
Make local phone calls on a landline instead of on your mobile (assuming you still have a landline). And if you ring someone on their mobile when they are at home, ring them back on their home number (assuming they still have one). Obviously this depends on what sort of mobile plan you’re on.
Mobile phones are becoming an ever growing financial problem for society, especially for younger users. This is due to a couple of reasons. Firstly, everyone has a mobile and there is pressure to have the latest model smartphone complete with 256 GB storage and 12 megapixel camera etc. Secondly, their use has sky rocketed in recent years, especially text messaging. And thirdly, there are a lot of added extras that go with your mobile.
The ways to combat these financial problems are: don’t buy the latest model until your old one doesn’t work anymore or you have lost it and resist the temptation to pay for expensive features you don’t need, especially if those features only come with an expensive plan. When sending texts, don’t get involved in a conversation where you are likely to send multiple messages if your phone plan means you pay per message, not per character, so put all the info you need to send in one message. Let’s face it – if you can tweet it, you can fit it in one SMS.
And forget about the gimmicks – like Ask Hugo. Sending a text to this “service” costs $5. Send any question to 19 HUGO and Hugo will text back an answer. A good one to start with is – “Hey Hugo, given everyone with a phone can google answers to any question they have for free, are you a f#%king rip off or what?”
Research a number of plans before you sign up – prepaid might be your best option. If you receive a mobile phone through work, see how much you are able to use it for personal calls and get rid of your own mobile if you can get away with just having the work phone.
Buy goods on lay-by. There is a bit of a stigma attached to lay-by as it has been seen as a poor person’s way of buying goods. However, I believe it is one of the best ways of buying something if you don’t currently have the funds. A lay-by will cost you anything from about two to twelve dollars for a service fee and you will have to make regular payments every week or fortnight. When you have paid for the item in full, you can take it home. If you decide you no longer want or can afford the item, then you receive your money back minus the service fee and possibly a couple of extra bucks in an administration charge.
For the best ideas on saving money visit Cheapskates, hand over up to $36.50* for 12 months access, and get some really great tips for saving money. *The first year of a full price membership is $36.50 but they have regular specials.
If you know someone who remembers what life was like around times like The Great Depression, you’d better hurry up and chat with them, as they are rapidly dropping off the perch – they’ll be the same vintage as my late Gran.
I remember Gran telling me a story about what life was like in the early 1940’s. She was living in suburban Sydney, nobody really had much and everyone was living off food stamps and coupons because so much was going into the war effort. One night the armed forces were doing a training exercise with their paratroopers when one of them landed off course in a backyard in Gran’s neighbourhood. Well, the armed services never got their parachute back. But within a very short time all of the neighbours suddenly had new, matching underwear.
Probably one of the reasons the birth rate was so low in the war years.
If you can follow these savings tips, spend less than you earn and save the amount leftover, then you are well on your way to financial freedom.
Some of these savings tips may seem a bit extreme. To help you get a bit of context, speak to someone who remembers what living through the Second World War or the Great Depression was like.
Saving money (even extreme saving) is do-able, especially in the short term. It will involve giving up some things on your part, but you should ask yourself before you do things like buy a block of chocolate, whether the longer term goal is worth more to you than eating the chocolate. Tough choice, especially if it’s Cadbury’s.
It can be fun finding new ways to save money, but please don’t go to the extremes of one man who wrote to The Sydney Morning Herald and asked “Do you know if it would be safe to wrap my son’s lunch sandwich with the very same plastic wrap that protects my morning news each day?”
What did your parents do to save money when they were your age? What about your grandparents?