Why you don't have to ditch your daily latte to save money
The past year has been a challenging one for many Australian households, but the new year offers the chance for a reset.
Often the money decisions we put off are the ones that could have the biggest impact.
Here are three money changes to kick-start your 2024.
Stop trying to save money by cutting down on day-to-day spending
Instead, review the biggest outgoings: your home loan rate or rent, utilities, insurance, and debt.
Swearing off your daily latte seems like it might save you a lot over the year. Easy, right? The truth is that it delivers 366 reminders of what you're missing out on, and 366 chances to fall off the wagon.
No wonder this simple money hack fails most who attempt it. Focus instead on the largest expenses in your budget, not only saving you more but allowing you to keep treating yourself to those small moments of joy.
Home loan or rent
Whether you're a home owner or renter, your home is likely to be your biggest expense, especially with rising interest rates and soaring rents.
If you are a home owner, review your mortgage. It's a good idea to do this regularly - at least every couple of years.
With slowing demand for home loans, banks are especially keen to retain existing borrowers and take customers from other lenders.
If you've had your mortgage for two or more years, your fixed-rate period is about to expire, your property has risen in value, you're in a better financial position, or you no longer need some features in your existing loan - there's never been a better time to switch.
Talk to your bank about getting a better deal, and engage a broker to look at switching lenders if necessary.
If you rent, you can still save. Stay on top of rents in your area and compare your rent with similar properties. If your landlord seeks to increase your rent, ask what comparable properties they used to determine the increase and ensure it aligns.
Energy prices may have skyrocketed but utilities are highly competitive markets and there are plenty of opportunities to save.
If you combine your gas and electricity provider, you can often get significant discounts - sometimes up to 15%. You can also make savings by bundling your internet, phone, and mobile.
Be careful of comparision websites as they may not cover all providers, and could be influenced by commissions.
The cost of insurance certainly adds up when you consider there's insurance for yourself (life insurance, income protection, health funds), for your home (home and contents), and for your car (third party, comprehensive). Make sure you only have what you need and never renew without reviewing.
Ask yourself if you need all the features, if could you reduce the cost with a bigger excess, or if you could get a better deal completely. But don't leave yourself exposed to risks you can't afford.
A good financial planner or broker will really help.
Money you owe, apart from your mortgage and car loan, can have a big impact on your expenses. If you have credit card debt, the only thing that really matters is the rate - the rest is just noise.
The difference between the highest and lowest standard card - based on the average $3300 balance - could be as much as $500 a year.
Stop avoiding money chats with your partner
Instead, take the time early in the relationship to understand each other's values and money personality, develop aligned shared goals, and a plan for your combined finances.
We all have money habits; some are helpful for our financial freedom; others not so much. It's rare for a couple to have identical attitudes and habits with money.
Talking money with your partner - and getting on the same page about finances - is vital to the health of your relationship and achieving your money goals, but it can be hard to navigate.
First, accept your differences - get to know why you both do what you do when it comes to money, and accept that as you each have different personalities, you each also have different money personalities.
Be prepared to compromise; figure out how to make your differences work for you rather than against you.
Create a plan and set money goals together, but ensure they address the needs and wants of you both - not just one of you. These goals should cover spending, saving, and debts.
Finally, bringing in a financial coach can really get your finances soaring. A good coach has seen it all when it comes to couples' finances.
Part psychologist, part accountant - someone with the perspective of an outsider to discuss and mitigate issues.
Stop thinking it's not worth putting away savings right now
Instead, make the most of high savings rates and compound interest.
With the cost of living so high it might seem impossible to save; but with high interest rates this is a great time to look at term deposits and leveraging compound interest on long-term investments.
No amount is too small, and an emergency stash is crucial for your financial wellbeing.
There are so many choices of investments and platforms, it can be easy to let the search for the perfect answer and timing get in the way of getting started.
The truth is the right time for you to invest is as soon as you and your finances are ready. The quality and consistency of your decisions will make a much bigger difference than saving a few dollars on fees.
You can create a much greater positive impact on your finances than you might think possible by viewing some topics through a different lens and by making minor changes to your money behaviours.
The important thing is to do the things that enable you to live the life you want, with the money you have. This is something everybody can learn to do.
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