2019 was a big year for Australian consumers. We dealt with the fallout of the banking royal commission, a confusing new private health insurance system and a number of big business scandals, not to mention the financial challenges and stress many Aussies are facing due to drought and bushfires.
We want 2020 to be better, so we've put together five simple tips for things you can do that could make a big difference to your finances and overall wellbeing for the year.
A new year is a great time to make a fresh start and make sure you're getting the best possible value on things like your insurance, superannuation and home utilities.
Let's do this!
1. Demand a better price
"Too many businesses take advantage of your loyalty by charging you outrageously high prices over time," says CHOICE consumer advocate Jonathan Brown.
"In 2020, get on the phone and demand better from your service providers, such as for your electricity and banking," he says. "Even calling just one or two of these providers can save you hundreds of dollars. A good start is to check you're not paying too much for the essentials: telco, energy, banking and insurance."
But when looking for a better deal, beware of commercial comparison sites.
"Commercial comparison sites are there to collect commissions or drive sales to their parent companies," says Brown.
"Government or nonprofit comparison sites might look less flashy but they're much more trustworthy – especially the info you'll find on CHOICE! Make sure you get advice from groups that care about your interests, not sales."
2. Consolidate your super
"There's a small change you can make today to end up with thousands more in your superannuation for your retirement," says Brown. "Consolidate!"
If you have multiple superannuation accounts, from old jobs for example, you could be paying exorbitant amounts in fees and insurance you'll never benefit from. You may not even realise you have more than one super account, so you may have money sitting in an account that's unclaimed.
"It's really easy to consolidate your super and make instant savings," says Brown. "You can find and manage your super using ATO online services through myGov. Pick one superannuation fund that meets your needs and stop paying double or even triple the fees."
Doing a little research and contacting your provider can help you get a better deal on things such as your health insurance and energy bills.
3. Health check your health insurance
"2019 saw the introduction of Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic health insurance categories in Australia. It was meant to make things easier, but we're more confused than ever," says Brown.
"First, check whether you're one of many Australians who's been tricked into paying for health insurance you don't need. Take our Do I Need Health Insurance? quiz to find out about whether taking out a policy will benefit you. Keep in mind that Extras policies have no bearing on your tax and people on low incomes won't save tax by having private health insurance."
And if you do want or need private health cover, it pays to regularly compare health insurance policies. Swapping providers can net big savings – such as the $1800 this CHOICE writer saved by changing from a rip-off policy.
4. Stop wasting money cooling and heating your home
"A quick trip to the hardware store and an afternoon performing some basic home upgrades could save you from exorbitant cooling and heating bills throughout the year," says Brown.
"Insulate, seal and shade! In a nutshell, these are cost-efficient ways to reduce your reliance on power-sucking cooling and heating, to make your home more energy efficient and put some of that cash spent on bills back in your pocket. Insulation alone can make your house up to 35% cooler."
5. Sugar-audit your pantry
"In 2019, we gave a Shonky Award to a supposedly nutritious children's cereal from Freedom Foods that contained 22% added sugar," says Brown. "The start of the year is the perfect time to audit the pantry and check for sneaky things hiding in the nutritional panel on your foods."
There are more than 40 names for added sugar hiding on food labels, and in 2020 we're calling for Health Stars on food packets to penalise these sneaky sugars.
Make sure you're not getting more sugar than you think you are by looking at the ingredients on the products, and be mindful that 'sugar' might be called other things such as glucose, rice syrup, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate or demerara (or many more names).
Make a fresh, sugar-free start to 2020 by ditching products that aren't good for you.