Lifestyle decisions that are killing your bank balance
It is something I see time and time again as a mortgage broker. Clients come in with good (or even very impressive) incomes, yet very little savings, thanks to some common lifestyle decisions that are eating away at their future financial security.
In contrast, I have also met several clients who are not only surviving but thriving on a low wage, and when I ask them how they have managed to put together their home deposit, it comes down to the savvy things they do, and more crucially, the things they don’t do, in order to keep their budget in check.
I have put together this list to help you reign in your expenditure and get your bank balance back in the black. You will notice that most of these suggestions are not enormous expenses in their own right, but when you commit to tackling a few of them, you will quickly see how these little things add up and transform your finances.
If you love eating out and refuse to give it up, then you need to be smart about it. Go out less often, order an entree-sized serve instead of a main and BYO wine if possible. You can also purchase voucher books and follow your favourites on social media for special deals.
You do not need to become a Sober Sally to save money, but you do need to reconsider the way you consume alcohol. Mixed drinks at a bar can be upwards of $15, for a drink you could have made at home for less than $4! If you commit to following the Australian guidelines on alcohol consumption (remember that they are different for men and women), you will improve your health along with your budget.
A pack a day habit could be eating into your savings (and your lungs) to the tune of $14,000 each year. But if you have tried to quit and failed, you are not alone! Many smokers attempt it several times before they successfully ditch the habit. There is so much out there to help these days, from hypnosis to nicotine replacement therapy, and even medication. Speak to your GP or call the Quitline for advice.
Taxis and ubers
Another benefit of cutting back on alcohol is that you will be able to drive home, saving your money on taxis and ubers. Sometimes these services are a godsend but do try and minimise how often you are using them. Take it in turns to drive with your friends, and chip in for petrol and parking to make it even more affordable.
One of the simplest changes you can make to improve your finances is to take your own lunch to work. A focaccia for lunch and a coffee and muffin for morning tea each day from the local cafe could see you spending around $100 per week on lunches – that is $5,000 per year! If you don’t have time to throw together a sandwich in the morning, take dinner leftovers instead.
This is such a tough one! Streaming services like Netflix can actually save you money, if you stay in and binge-watch instead of going out to the movies, but many of us do both. If you decide to keep Netflix, Stan or any other subscription, include it as part of your entertainment budget and do not double-dip. And make sure you are on the most appropriate subscription level for your needs, rather than paying more for extra screens or channel packs you don’t really use.
As above, it is time to pick a side! You cannot subscribe to every single service out there and expect to save money, and luckily, gone are the days that Foxtel commanded a monopoly over our pay TV options. If you can’t bring yourself to give up completely, at least cut down to a more basic package or switch to a cheaper streaming option like Foxtel Play.
Not only are you paying more for the convenience, pre-cut fruit and vegetables tend to be wrapped in tonnes of plastic, which is not great for the planet. It only takes a few minutes to prep vegetables for the week, and you can store them in containers in the fridge until they are needed.
Gym memberships & personal trainers
The fitness industry is booming, and its meteoric rise relies on two things – your lack of knowledge and your lack of motivation. Do a little research of your own to find out what exercise regime will work for you, then invest in a couple of essentials for home workouts – a set of dumbbells, a yoga mat and maybe a resistance band – and commit to working up a sweat in your lounge room. If staying motivated is your problem, enlist a friend to be your accountability buddy.
how many people do you know who has won millions on Powerball? I am guessing it is a big fat zero. The odds of winning the lottery are insanely low, and your $20 weekly ticket is de-railing your savings by $1,000 per year. Time to give it up.
At $3 to $4 a pop, your takeaway coffee habit could be costing you upwards of $2,500 per year! I am not suggesting you need to swap your barista blend for a cheap jar of instant, but there are ways to get your caffeine fix and save cash at the same time. A good home coffee machine will set you back a few hundred dollars. Team it with your favourite beans or ground coffee and you will have a cafe quality beverage in your Keep Cup at a fraction of the price.
Holidays & weekends away
You can still enjoy trips away, if you are smart. Research special deals, take advantage of off-peak periods and discount vouchers, and be prepared to make sacrifices so you can travel on a budget. Some ideas I have picked up from clients include choosing accommodation with a stove and microwave, so you can cook your own meals and keep your food spend down and travelling during school terms when kids are young. Not only is this cheaper, you will also spend less fighting your way through big crowds.
Fast food is not just unhealthy, but it is also becoming more and more expensive. A trip to the drive thru for a family of four could set you back around $40, and ordering home delivery through your favourite app can cost even more. Plan ahead and avoid the money trap. When you make a curry or casserole make extra and freeze it for busy nights, and keep some frozen fish and chips on hand for when the kids feel like a special treat for dinner. Master the art of “fakeaway” and watch your money food spend drop!
Manis & pedis
Personal grooming is a high priority for many, but it also comes with a lofty price tag. You don’t have to give it all up; instead, prioritise the things that are most important to you and cut back on those you are less bothered about.
Take a look in your wardrobe… How many of the garments have you worn in the past six months? How many still have tags on them? And how many are you holding onto, just in case you lose weight or they come back into fashion? You really don’t need any new clothes, but if you are feeling like a change, why not arrange a clothes swap with friends?
Brand name clothing
When you. buy something from a big brand, you are paying for the label, not necessarily the quality of the item. Often, garments are made in the same factories anyway, with a different tag sewn on at the very end (this goes for lots of products, from shampoo to biscuits). Instead of dressing according to brand names and trends, dress to suit your personal style and body shape.
When you gamble, the only winner is the casino or the betting agency. If you are struggling to give up this habit, speak to a qualified counsellor and put some strategies in place.
Sure, it is convenient, but it is also hugely overpriced. Curry for two people at $15a pop? You could whip that up for around $5 and have leftovers for the freezer. Microwave rice, four small serves for $4? Why, when you have already own several pots and can grab a huge bag of basmati from the grocery store super-cheap? Going back to basics in the kitchen can save you so much money, and better yet, you will have control over exactly what is in your food: win-win.
This is a hard one to part with for busy working mums and dads, but it could save you loads of money. If you have older children, ask them to complete some of the household tasks for extra pocket money. Or, make a master list and tackle one or two jobs each day is it does not become overwhelming. There are lots of tips and tricks you can find online that will help you keep your home clean and organised, without being chained to the sink.
Many children development experts believe kids these days are over-schedules and fat too “busy”, thanks to all the extra-curricular activities we have them enrolled in. Instead of signing them up to everything under the sun, allow them to pick one activity each per term, and take advantage of the free things on offer in your neighbourhood, such as the local library, park and bike track.
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