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Ten ways to save on your bills

You may already be an enthusiastic budgeter. Or you may be a spendthrift.

Either way, as prices head skyward, it’s always helpful to keep your household expenses as low as possible. Today we share how to save money in the ten highest categories of household expenditure for retirees.

Some of the savings are significant. In a recent negotiation with my own insurer, I had saved $1400 on home and contents cover by the end of the conversation.

Other savings may amount to just a few dollars a week. But just $4 weekly can quickly become $208 a year – and that might mean a special stay on the coast for a mid-year pick me up.

The following ideas are simply that – ideas. There’s no guarantee that deals that are on offer today will still be there next week. We can say, however, that reviewing your expenditure and trimming some of the costs is a fabulous retirement habit to adopt and maintain.

So without further ado, jump in and read our list and don’t forget to let us know if we’ve missed anything

 

Top ten household expenditures in retirement:

  • Food
  • Household/everyday
  • Health
  • Finance
  • Energy
  • Insurance
  • Travel
  • Car
  • Technology
  • Entertainment

Food

Shopping around is the strongest strategy. At the time of writing the same quantity of broccoli was priced from $6.00 to$14.00 within a three kilometre distance. If we extrapolate this  across your entire fruit and vegetable purchases, you can pay way over the odds at certain outlets. You may prefer to support local independent vendors or shop at farmers markets and are therefore happy to pay the extra. But taking a quick look at the going rate online means you will at least be aware whether you are paying a fair price or not.

Try to buy in season and don’t forget to stock up on what you need when it’s on sale. Most supermarket websites highlight specials under categories such as ‘super savers’ or ‘price reductions’ to guide you to their deals.

Remember to take note of unit pricing when you’re shopping, either instore or online. A comparison by the Queensland Consumers Association in 2021 found you could pay up to 42% less by simply by choosing a different pack size of the same product.

Opinions vary as to which day it is cheapest to shop, but most the common answer is Wednesday. Try mid-week shopping and see if you save more.

Household/everyday

Buy in bulk where possible on frequently used commodities such as laundry detergent, paper towels and pet food.

OpShops are fun places to visit and are the source of many treasures priced well below their value. Try visiting them for crockery, clothing , books, DVDs, CDs and other treats. And don’t believe that all OpShop stock is second hand – many shops do a roaring trade in designer labels gifted to them by generous retailers.

If you have too much clutter, selling excess items online is a good way to generate some spare cash.

Health

Comprehensive private health insurance can cost thousands. It’s fast becoming a luxury, so it is important that you achieve the lowest possible premium. Comparison sites are useful here for an ‘apples with apples’ premiums, as are the companies which compare on your behalf (in a phone call) and share the most cost effective solution. They receive a fee for this service from the successful insurer, so it’s not coming out of your pocket.

Having a Pension Concession Card (PCC) or Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CHSC) is helpful for many medical and allied health appointments and PBS medicines. As are seniors’ cards, depending upon the pharmacy or medical specialist you visit. Asking your doctor if generic medicines will suffice is a great idea – who needs to pay for brand marketing? And before an eye or hearing test, it’s helpful to check if the supplier will bulk bill. Keeping healthy is of course the ultimate way to spend as little as possible on health needs, so viewing regular check-ups and exercise expenditure as an investment rather than a cost is a smart strategy.

Finance

There are literally hundreds of ways of saving money when it comes to managing your money – here are just a few to spark your imagination.

Dry July is admirable, but why not try a Frugal February, straight after Christmas when your credit card is groaning? Force yourself to give up all NON discretionary spending for one month. Then review the things you didn’t miss and see if you can trim your spending for a longer period.

If you still have a mortgage, investigate the establishment of a mortgage offset account which will reduce interest more effectively than just parking spare funds in a cash account.

If you have invested in shares, check the dividend status on your holdings, You may be able to get a better return with a similar amount invested in stocks that pay their way.

Try setting up automatic payments for key bills so you don’t miss a payment and end up copping a fee.

Shop for major purchases when prices are lowest – i.e. when new models arrive, post-Christmas or at the end of the financial year.

Your credit card may include extra discounts, services or entitlements. Check to see what it offers and compare it to other cards that may be more cost effective. And never, ever, pay off your credit card late. The interest simply isn’t worth it.

Energy

Bill comparison sites also work well for your energy outgoings. Currently the Victorian Government is offering a $250 payment to all households just for checking their comparative charges. Whether you then switch is up to you.

Our parents’ generation was much better at switching off lights and appliances and wearing more clothes in winter. These are simple solutions, but still very valid.

And reviewing how many lights you really need on in the evening is also a no-brainer.

As is installing LED bulbs wherever possible.

Older houses can leak heat or cool air so checking your doors and windows can also lead to better energy efficiency.

Insurance

Again this can be a heavy duty part of your household budget, covering house, contents, car/s and private health. If you do require all of these insurances, then comparisons are critical. Most sites make this process quite easy. But always phone the providers as many will ‘bundle’ your insurance resulting in savings of 10-15%. Additional cars will also attract further discounts.

Remember also that providers need to apply a federal government rebate on health insurance which can by nearly 33% for over 75s. Make sure that you are getting this.

Travel

Comparison websites can be a really great way of seeing competing prices for airfares, accommodation and cruises. But before you book, double check that it isn’t cheaper to do so directly with the supplier – aggregators often add a fee for their service. If you have an airline or hotel loyalty card, make sure to use it – free points can also be terrific for upgrades that might normally be out of reach.

Travel insurance is getting more expensive but as above, go through the pricing process on two or three sites and then call the operators directly and negotiate a lower price.

Travelling domestically mid-week and non-school holiday times is a smart tactic for cheaper fares and rates. And your credit card may have some added travel benefits which ease the price burden.

House minding is another great way to have an affordable break.

Technology

Not wanting to have the latest, shiniest model of everything is the first step to keeping your technology spend under control. Internet plans are now quite competitive and most do not have a contract, so you can compare and move your connection much more easily. If your phone usage is low, a $15 SIM card can cover your needs without a recurring monthly fee of $40 or so. Speaking of phones, getting a strong screen protector makes sense as up to 30% of repairs are connected to broken screens. The main rule with technology is to buy to your needs rather than be blown away by bells and whistles you don’t really need.

Entertainment

Many of us love movies and just about every cinema complex has seniors’ days or evenings which cost about half the normal ticket price. Being a member of cinema loyalty clubs delivers free tickets and special events as well. (One example is Palace Cinema’s Senior Saving tickets for $8 including morning tea). Your Senior’s Card is also very useful for films and other such activities. If you enjoy a glass of wine, join wine retailers’ clubs at no cost and enjoy the member specials rather than paying full price all the time. Home entertainment can be the least expensive of all. You actually do not need to pay for movies as there are so many on free to air TV and YouTube. If you do pay for streaming services, make sure you review these subscriptions so that you’re not just paying out of habit as opposed to using them frequently.

Car/transport

Don’t forget to package or negotiate your insurance. You may also get a discount on your registration if you hold a concession card.

Do you need really more than one car in your household? Or is this setting you back up a couple of thousand dollars which could mean an annual holiday in the sun instead?

Next determine how your vehicles are valued as assets if you receive a full or part Age Pension. Check the Redbook value (resale) to ensure that you are not forgoing pension income because you valued with your heart instead of your head.

Every second Tuesday (according to a WA government survey), at the end of a 14-day cycle, fuel hits it’s lowest price. If following such a cycle is too hard, install an App such as GasBuddy and find the cheapest fuel outlets based on your location.

And finally …

These are just a few ways to trim your spending. You also may already be earning cash for small tasks such as dog walking, babysitting, handyman/woman services or house minding.

Becoming a canny consumer is the ultimate goal. This means knowing your rights, checking you’re getting all you should and insisting upon them if you’re not.

And don’t forget if you are on a full or part Age Pension – or think you will qualify soon, then making sure that you continue to maximise these entitlements is an essential way to balance your household budget.

Unsure how to maximise your entitlements?

Talk soon with one of our experienced advisers to see if you can earn more. And most importantly make sure you are receiving all your entitlements.

Check Your Entitlements