Ah, 2020. What a year you've been. The year of social distancing; the year of the Zoom meeting; the year of toilet paper shortages. And let's not forget the horrific bushfires and the travel restrictions. It's safe to say that most of us are very happy to see the end of this year.
There are some things we can't do much about right now to make 2021 a better year, such as eliminate COVID-19, but some things are within our control. Here are five simple tips that'll help you take charge of the new year.
"No-one wants 2021 to feel like the hangover from 2020," says CHOICE consumer advocate Julia Steward.
"So CHOICE, as Australia's nonprofit consumer champion, is here to help you have a fresh start. We put products and services to the test so you don't have to. You can take charge of 2021, saving water, cleaning up your finances and ditching things you don't need any more."
Is your washing machine a water waster?
1. Watch out for water wasters
Even though we're currently in a La Niña pattern (which means more rain), Australians are becoming more and more conscious of their water use each year.
Get 2021 off to a good start by hunting down the water wasters in your home.
"In our independent lab testing, sadly we find some whitegoods will do significant damage to your water bill and add to the pressure on our water sources," says Steward.
"Washer-dryer combo machines are some of the worst for water waste and one recent Samsung washer scored just 1% for water efficiency in our tests."
2. Audit your accounts
"The new year is the perfect time to ask yourself: are you getting what you're paying for?" says Steward.
"A lot has changed in 2020. Audit your bank accounts and credit cards to see what you're regularly paying for.
"Is that credit card with travel rewards worth it this year? Are you going to the gym? Are you paying too much for your internet? Are you overpaying insurance for a car you barely drive?"
3. Avoid dud health insurance
Understanding private health insurance is one of the most confusing things about being an adult.
"Too many people get stuck on dud health insurance deals. You think you're covered and then when the worst happens, you're stuck with huge unexpected bills," says Steward.
"We've named and shamed the worst health insurance policies from Medibank, Bupa, HCF, HBF and NIB. If you have one of these policies, you can do better!"
Check out these bad value health insurance deals. Is yours on the list?
A reverse-cycle air conditioner is a good option long term for cooling and heating your home.
4. Stay cool
"Staying cool over summer doesn't have to break the bank," says Steward.
A reverse-cycle air conditioner is your best bet, long term. It'll keep you cool in summer and warm in winter, and is pretty good at keeping the power bill in check.
"If you rent and don't have air conditioning, you don't have to stump up for an expensive Dyson fan – our tests this year found some much cheaper department store fans beat out the cult brand," Steward says.
"The cheapest option of all is to seal your home and be smart with shade."
5. Ditch products that don't work
When you're done auditing your accounts, audit your cleaning cupboard.
"We awarded the whole category of floor cleaners a CHOICE Shonky in 2020, because they could barely beat plain water," says Steward.
"But it's not just floor cleaners – lots of the cleaning products around your home are frankly useless and can be replaced by better, cheaper options or even classic home remedies. We put a huge range of cleaners to the test every year.
"You could be paying less and getting a better clean with a quick check of our reviews."