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Australians saving more than just money during COVID-19

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For many Australians, the gravity of COVID-19 has challenged us to take a deeper look at the way we live and spend. We have changed our lifestyles either by necessity or choice and in many cases, adopted new behaviour.

Behavioural experts say it takes around two months for a person to form a new habit and we have now been living with the impact of COVID-19 for a little longer than that. The good news is that many of the new things we are doing - cutting spending, reducing waste and becoming more resourceful - have positive benefits for our pocket and planet.

Recent research from Gateway Bank reveals that more than eight in 10 Australians have recently participated in a range of activities - from reducing food and energy wastage to fixing clothes - for the first time. While most were driven by reducing costs, environmental considerations were a close second.

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Waste not, want not

It is estimated that the contents of one in five full shopping bags ends up in the bin. According to the New South Wales Government's Love Food Hate Waste program, that equates to $3800 worth of groceries thrown out by each household per year, and a total of $10 billion in wasted food across NSW alone.

It's therefore encouraging to see that around one in two consumers recently started proactively reducing their food wastage in the past three months, according to Gateway Bank research. And around a third had started growing their own vegetables at home.

Energy consumption was also high on the agenda of Australian consumers, with 53% actively reducing their power usage by turning off lights and appliances and some even switching providers.

Do we always need new stuff?

A great way to reduce costs and unnecessary waste is to fix things rather than buy something new and Australians have shown themselves to be a resourceful group, acquiring new skills and putting any recent spare time to good use.

The research shows that more Australians have reduced the amount they are spending on replacing items. Across the economy, total spend on new items was around $23 billion in the past 12 months or $1182 per person annually, a $5.1 billion decrease compared to the year prior.

In the past three months alone, one in four Australians have also repaired their own clothes.

With the increasing focus on sustainability in the textiles industry, there are now a range of retailers that can help you repair clothing and divert it from landfill. For example, environmentally conscious clothing retailer, Patagonia, will repair items covered by their Ironclad Guarantee free-of-charge and charge a fair price for all repairs needed due to normal wear and tear.

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Acquiring new skills

Many of us have also turned our attention to DIY projects in recent months, learning new skills in a bid to save costs and put our time in lockdown to good use. For others, there is a clear willingness to learn how to fix household items if it meant not having to replace them.

Most Australians said that they would use a repair cafe for this purpose if it were available.

There is also an abundance of tools you can use to fine tune your DIY skills, from YouTube tutorials to online DIY classes that the family can participate in.

So, while we were required to simplify our lives over the past few months, we are likely to question our conventional behaviour as relative normality resumes. While some of us will have no choice but to reduce our spending, others may realise that the recent changes we made are worth keeping over the long-term and that's good for our pocket and planet.

We're cutting through the confusion to help you manage your money during the coronavirus outbreak. Click here for more on how COVID-19 could affect your job, budget, super and investments.

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Lexi Airey is chief executive officer of customer-owned Gateway Bank. Lexi is passionate about living a sustainable lifestyle that is good for both the pocket and the environment.
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