Have you been hit hard by the increase in inflation? Then read on for some cost of living sayings tips.
‘Cost of living’ refers to the level of prices relating to day-to-day items, and in the last 12 months the cost of living for all Australians has risen. Inflation has risen by over 7% over the past year, which can make it difficult to financially plan and to save money as we are all paying more for the items we regularly buy.
Some people are being hit harder by these increased prices, and one particular group of people that are affected is the retirees. With a fixed income, making ends meet can be an ongoing source of stress, making it more important than ever for older Australians to find ways to save money.
Here we look at cost of living savings tips that can help with everything from fuel saving apps to utilising your local community services.
A place to start
The best place to start when you want to save money is to work out where you are spending your money. Keep a spending diary for a couple of weeks, or go through your bank statements, to establish a picture of your spending habits. This will help identify where you can and can’t save, to help you better cover the daily essentials.
Create a budget
If you’re living on a fixed income, it can be relatively easy to create a basic budget. Make sure to include monthly expenses as well as annual expenses. All your expenses should be included, such as rent/mortgage, vehicle, bills, groceries, healthcare costs, pet costs, and any other expenses you may have. Make sure you also allow some money for unexpected expenses.
Once you understand your budget and bills, try automating as many payments as you can to avoid late fees.
Make sure that your budget is realistic and remember you need to stick to your budget to see the savings.
Moneysmart has some handy advice and resources for budgeting.
Access government assistance
As an older Australian you may also be eligible for certain benefits, subsidies, or concessions. These can include the Pensioner Concession Card or the Seniors Health Card. These can help to reduce the cost of healthcare, transport, and other expenses. You may also be entitled to subsidies on your rent or energy bills. Visit Services Australia to see what you are eligible for.
Medicare Safety Net
If you are eligible, make sure that you and your family are registered for the Medicare Safety Net, as a family, rather than as individuals. According to the Australian Government’s Services Australia website, this will lower your Medicare Safety Net threshold. If your out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare-claimable services exceeds the threshold, Medicare will start refunding your costs at a higher rate.
If you live in a large home, downsizing to a smaller property can be a great way to reduce many of your expenses. A smaller home can save you on utility bills, on mortgage/rent payments, lower maintenance costs and more.
Consider selling the extra vehicle in your driveway. You can save money on maintenance, fuel, insurance, and registration.
Get fuel discounts
There are a range of fuel discount loyalty programs on offer at various petrol stations across Australia.
Fuel apps also show you some of the cheaper fuel prices in your area.
Use public transport
Public transport is often cheaper than owning a car, especially if you are eligible for a pensioner concession. Consider using public transport for your daily commute or when running errands. Pensioners are eligible for discounted or free public transport in many parts of Australia. This can include buses, trains, and ferries.
Cook at home
Although eating out is a nice treat, cooking and eating at home is much more affordable. Learning how to cook your favourite meals at home can save a lot of money. Consider cooking in batches and freeze the leftovers.
If you do want to eat out, look for days or meals that have a seniors discount or select cheaper meals and avoid starters, desserts and expensive drinks.
Make use of leftovers
Australians throw away up to 20% of the food they buy, which means that up to 20% of the money spent on groceries is also thrown away. Try to save on this cost by meal planning or cook larger portions of meals and freeze leftovers.
Be an organised shopper
Plan your food shopping and take a shopping list and stick to it. Also check what’s already in your kitchen cupboards first, so you don’t waste money on buying too many of the same items.
Swap brands for savings
When at the supermarket, consider buying the cheaper generic brands to save you money at the checkout. Depending on the item, there could be little to no difference in quality, however the price savings are noticeable.
Swap meat for vegetables
Vegetables are usually cheaper than meat so swapping meat for vegetables and legumes at least once a week can make a big difference over time.
Frozen or fresh
Compare the prices of fresh versus frozen produce and often frozen will be cheaper. Frozen can save you money and, if stored correctly, can have a longer shelf life.
Shop in season
Buy and plan your meals around the in season produce, this is usually in abundance and therefore cheaper. Examples of winter produce include apples, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. Summer produce includes bananas, berries, avocados, tomatoes, capsicum, corn and many more.
Take your reusable bags to the supermarket
Save on buying plastic and paper bags at the checkouts by taking your own reusable options. Store them in the car or have wrapped up ones in your bag.
Price match to get the best deals. Check weekly catalogues to find the best prices. Then you can ask your preferred store to match competitor’s prices.
When shopping for groceries, clothing, or household items, be sure to shop around for the best deals. Look for sales, discounts, and promotions to save money.
Buy in bulk whenever possible, especially for staple foods. The savings may surprise you over time. Share groceries with a neighbour or family member if it’s too much for you.
For more grocery bill savings visit old.cota.com.au/how-to-save-on-your-grocery-bill/
Staying healthy can be an effective way to save money. By eating well, exercising regularly, and taking care of your health, you may be able to reduce your healthcare costs and enjoy a better quality of life. Taking care of yourself and your health can help avoid chronic health conditions, meaning that you’re less likely to need expensive medical treatments and medications. And visiting your doctor and dentist on a regular basis is a good idea – If they catch a health problem early on, it could save thousands of dollars.
Use your own coffee machine
Making coffee at home every day instead of buying it from a coffee shop can save you a lot, considering that a standard coffee now ranges between $4-6.
Take advantage of discounts
Many businesses offer discounts to pensioners, including restaurants, cinemas, and retail stores. Be sure to ask if a pensioner discount is available before making a purchase.
Coupons or cashbacks
There are many online coupon sites that you can utilise. Such as Shop A Docket, Cashrewards, Shopback, Groupon and All The Deals. There may be offers in your area on anything from clothing, shoes, restaurants, car servicing and tyres, haircuts, movie tickets, beauty treatments and more.
Customer reward programs
Think about where you commonly shop and consider using their rewards programs, if applicable. These can provide discounts or rewards for specific products and when you achieve different levels of expenditure. Look into the program to see if it is worthwhile before you sign up.
Shop out of season
Try getting your warm coats in summer and your singlets and shorts in the winter at the end of season sales. Outlet shops can be a good place to search for last season and on sale clothing and shoes and can save you a lot of money for these necessities.
Scrap dry cleaning
Look for clothes you can wash at home to save time and money on expensive dry-cleaning costs.
Audit bank accounts
Check your bank accounts to make sure you aren’t being charged any fees, i.e. overdrawn fees, dishonour fees, account keeping fees and more. Opt for a bank account with no fees and check your balance more often to save on other fees.
Maximise your savings account interest
See if you can get ‘bonus’ interest on your savings account if you meet certain criteria, such as making minimum monthly deposits or making no withdrawals. Bonus interest can add up every month.
Pay your bills on time
Late fees on bill payments can really add up. So, if you struggle with your bills, consider setting up a regular repayment amount or you might also be able to save by paying in advance, or by direct debit.
Maximise your tax return
By having your receipts in order will mean that when it comes to tax time you will be able to maximise your deductions and therefore your tax return. There are many apps available to help you do this, including one from the ATO called myDeductions.
Delete credit card numbers
To avoid temptation with online purchasing, delete your credit card details from your stored online payment services, such as PayPal.
Get your bills online
Some providers, charge fees for paper statements. If you don’t mind going paperless and getting your bills online, this could save you some money. If you prefer paper bills, check with your provider if there is an exemption to the paper bill fees.
Review your providers
From your mortgage provider to your insurance providers, superannuation provider and utility providers, search around for a better option and/or contact your current provider and ask for a better deal. You have nothing to lose.
Review subscription services
Streaming services such as Netflix, Stan, Kayo, and YouTube Premium may seem cheap individually, but when you add them up the monthly costs can add up. Consider which services you use the most and cancel the ones you use the least to save money each month.
It’s also a good idea to review your bank statements to find any regular subscriptions you may have forgotten about or are unaware of.
Cut bills by swapping hot water washes for cold, only doing a load of washing or dishwashing when they are full, changing light bulbs to more energy-efficient ones, turning off stand-by appliances at the power point when they are not in use, buy energy-efficient appliances and don’t leave all the lights on, turn off lights when you leave a room.
Heating and cooling
Heating and cooling contributes to a large portion of peoples energy bills. To ensure efficiency make sure temperatures are set at the best cost saving levels for the season – 22°C in winter and 24°C in summer or no more than about 8°C different from the outside temperature. Also only use the heating and cooling in the rooms that you are using, close doors off to rooms not being used, check for drafts and close window coverings.
If you would like to save on your water bills, take shorter showers, use a water and energy saving dishwasher and washing machine, select the short cycles for both dishwashers and washing machines and use any excess water (including from water bottles) to water your plants. Also changing over your shower head to a water-saving one is another easy way to reduce your water bill.
Keep the fridge shut
Decide what you want from the fridge before opening it. Fridges and freezers can use a lot of power if their doors are opened and closed multiple times or held open for an extended period. As the temperature inside resetting can impact your energy bills.
Skip the dryer
Hang your clothes out to dry instead of using a clothes dryer. If its bad weather use a clothes airer inside or undercover. This will save you a noticeable amount on your energy bills each year.
Check out more energy saving tips here – old.cota.com.au/ways-to-conserve-energy-and-save/
Reuse as many things that you can, it’s not only good for the environment its good for savings! For example, gift wrap and gift bags, plastic bags, food containers and more.
Keep things in working order
Keeping your appliances and vehicle(s) in good working order can help you save on repairs and will prolong their use. I.e., regularly check your oil, it will protect your engine from damage and help you get more mileage, while ensuring your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure can help save money on fuel.
Some items in your home should be fixed by a professional for safety reasons, such as electrical, but some tasks you may be able to do yourself. From mending your own clothes, to unclogging drains and replacing washers in taps, to changing windscreen wipers. There are many online tutorials and videos you can use to step you through these tasks if you need. You will not only save some money, you also may not have to buy a new item, saving you even more.
Keep in mind that doing DIY repairs can sometimes risk voiding warranties.
Making your own gifts and gift cards can save a lot of money. Cards can easily cost between $3-10 each. So that is a big saving alone. Making homemade gifts is another way to save on costs.
Make your own cleaning products
You can easily and cheaply make your own cleaning products with simple ingredients like vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, salt and lemon juice. Search online for recipes. Just make sure you do your research and know what you can and cant mix and what can and cant be used on different surfaces. For example do not use vinegar on marble. Check out these recipes: old.cota.com.au/make-your-own-cleaning-products/
Make your own beauty products
There are many relatively easy and cheap ways to make beauty products for yourself or to give to others as gifts. With simple ingredients such as sugar, honey, coconut oil, olive oil, oats, and essential oils. Check out these recipes old.cota.com.au/make-your-own-beauty-products/
Secret Santa for Christmas
Instead of buying each family member or friend a Christmas gift, why not do a Secret Santa next Christmas. Everyone only needs to buy one person a gift at a set dollar value, saving you on the cost of multiple gifts.
Use your local library
Save money on entertainment by borrowing instead of buying. Books, eBooks, magazines, audiobooks, and DVDs are all available for free to enjoy at public libraries. Plus, many have computers that are available for free use.
Attend community free events
There are always many free activities that are available to you. Free community concerts, museums and art galleries that may have free or cheaper admission for seniors.
Cash for cans
Many Australian states and territories have recycling deposit schemes operating where you take in specific bottles and cans to recycle in exchange for a cash payment.
Grow your own
If you have a green thumb, you could cut grocery bills by growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Growing from seed is the cheapest option, with packets of seeds usually only a few dollars.
Choose natural remedies instead of choosing the expensive chemist options for simple ailments. See here for some simple natural remedies that may save you money old.cota.com.au/home-remedies-that-work/.
This does not mean to avoid medical attention for medical issues.
Utilise local and community services
Join the library and borrow instead of buying books. Attend produce swaps where you can swap things you have made, grown, or created, with others. Attend local markets to buy cheap produce, second hand goods and more. Visit local repair cafes to get things fixed for free. Join local savings groups on social media, for example, ‘Buy Nothing’, where members give away items to other members who need them or ‘savings hacks’ communities, who share everything from meal-planning ideas to which stores are having sales. Investigate local co-op groups where people buy food or other items in bulk and share the cost – do your research to ensure the groups are legit.
Saving money doesn’t happen overnight and not every tip will work for everyone. Evaluate your priorities and choose which tips will work best for you and your lifestyle, follow your budget and you will find that you can stretch your income further and in turn minimise any financial stress.