01.Tips to get your budget back on track
Rising petrol costs, new taxes, cuts on benefits and spiraling health care costs are putting the squeeze on many household budgets.
While our politicians argue over the nation’s balance sheet, CHOICE believes there is plenty consumers can do to find a better deal on everyday expenses and put the household budget back in the black.
Credit card cost-saving tips
The average credit card account is about $3200 in debt. Here are four things you can do:
- Beware of teaser rates and interest-free honeymoon periods - read the fine print. You could build up a stack of debt and be unable to pay it off when the card reverts to the full rate.
- Don't use your credit card as a borrowing tool and consider whether a debit card would meet your needs.
- If you find you don’t pay off your full balance every month, consider moving to a no-frills, low-interest card.
- Think twice before chasing expensive rewards points and programs. Our research shows that you generally need to spend huge amounts of money on your credit card to make rewards worthwhile.
Energy cost-saving tips
With the cost of electricity rocketing and consumers scrambling for better options, CHOICE has four tips for taking the heat out of your energy bills:
- Are you paying too much for your energy? If you haven't reviewed your energy plan recently, chances are you're paying too much. Go to our guide on shopping around for a new energy plan to find out how you can get a better deal and keep more money in your pocket rather than it going to your energy retailer's bottom line.
- Watch out for marketing tricks. Energy companies confuse customers with their terms and conditions, while pay-on-time discounts are especially perplexing.
- Cut your energy bill and make your home a more comfortable place this winter. Check out our guide on how to keep your home warm this winter and find out which are the big energy guzzlers around your home.
- As utility bills continue to rise, it’s more important than ever to know your rights about disconnection.
Child care cost savings
With the average cost of child care
at $78.50 per day (as of February 2012) and fees continuing to climb, consumers can take some simple steps to ensure they are accessing all available savings:
- Although the Child Care Benefit is means-tested, if you are receiving income support payments such as a Centrelink pension or have a family income of less than $41,902, check to make sure you are receiving the maximum amount.
- Use an approved child care provider to ensure you can access the Child Care Rebate. It’s not means-tested and refunds 50% of your childcare costs up to a maximum benefit of $7500, per child, per year.
- Remember you have to apply for the Child Care Benefit to receive the Child Care Rebate, even if your income is above the cut-offs. Don’t be one of the 100,000 families that are missing out.
- For more information, contact the Department of Human Services.
Car insurance cost savings
With increasing competition among car insurers, there are has never been a better time to shop around for a better deal to save money. CHOICE recommends that you:
- Challenge your car insurance provider at renewal time, push them for a better price and ask for discounts.
- Use CHOICE to help decide which policy is right for you. We've reviewed 44 comprehensive car insurance policies and made value-based recommendations.
- Be prepared to switch providers and look around before you "auto-renew" with your existing provider - remember your auto renewal is often more expensive than a quote for a new customer.
Health insurance cost-saving tips
In the wake of the health insurance premiums increase of 6.2% on average in April 2014, CHOICE has four tips on what consumers can do reduce the strain on the family budget:
- Review extras coverage – if you cancel it, it won’t impact on your tax and it often doesn’t cover all the treatments you want. Benefits usually only cover part of the treatment costs.
- Have a look at hospital cover – ask yourself why you have it. If the only reason relates to the Lifetime Health Cover or Medicare Levy Surcharge, you could take out the least expensive policy you can find and upgrade later.
- Check for a discount – some funds provide a 4% discount for paying by direct debit or by prepaying your annual premium.
- Check whether you qualify to join a restricted membership fund – for example, people working in the education or defence industries can get good policies.
Choice budget-busting links
Review your health insurance cover.
Switch to a cheaper electricity plan.
Find a better car insurance deal.
Check your childcare services and costs.