Get a grip on your budget this New Year

With the cost of living rising on all fronts, we offer a bit of guidance on how to stay in the black in 2019.

Finesse your finances

We won't promise to make you rich and famous, but we can show you a few things you can do to avoid throwing your money away.

A few simple steps could mean serious savings as the new year unfolds.

How to save money on a credit card

The average credit card account is about $3200 in debt. Here are four things you can do to stay out of credit card trouble:

  1. Beware of teaser rates and interest-free honeymoon periods – they don't last forever. You could build up a stack of debt and be unable to pay it off when the card reverts to the full rate.
  2. Don't use your credit card as a borrowing tool, and consider whether a debit card would meet your needs.
  3. If you find you don't pay off your full balance every month, consider moving to a no-frills, low-interest card.
  4. 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.

See how to choose the best credit card deal for more.

How to save money on energy

With the cost of electricity rocketing and consumers scrambling for better options, we have five tips for taking the heat out of your energy bills:

  1. Are you paying too much for your energy? Many Australians are. 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.
  2. Watch out for marketing tricks. Energy companies love to confuse customers with mind-numbing terms and conditions. Pay-on-time discounts are especially perplexing.
  3. Cut your energy bill and make your home a more comfortable place this winter. Check out how to keep your home cool this summer and find out which are the big energy guzzlers around your home.
  4. As utility bills continue to rise, it's more important than ever to know your rights about disconnection.
  5. Try out the CHOICE Transformer energy-switching service. We charge a modest fee to keep it running, but you don't pay unless we save you more than the fee.

How to save money on child care

With the average cost of long day care anywhere between $70 and $185 per day and fees continuing to climb, parents and caregivers can take some simple steps to ensure they are accessing all available savings:

  1. Although the Child Care Subsidy is means-tested, if you're receiving income support payments such as a Centrelink pension or have a family income of less than $66,958, check to make sure you're receiving the maximum amount.   
  2. Use an approved child care provider to ensure you can access the Child Care Subsidy. Depending on your income, it pay from 20% to 85% of your childcare costs.
  3. For more information, contact the Department of Human Services.

How to save money on car insurance

With increasing competition among car insurers, there are has never been a better time to shop around for a better deal to save money. We recommend 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 comprehensive car insurance policies (the kind you should probably have) and recommended ones that are good value for money.
  • 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.

How to save money on health insurance

In the wake of a long run of health insurance premiums increases, we have five tips on what you can do to reduce the strain on the family budget:

  • First and foremost, be sure you need private health insurance at all. It will depend on your life stage and other circumstances. Our Do I Need Health Insurance tool will help you answer this costly question.
  • Review your extras cover – 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 and even their relatives can get good policies.

How to save money on whitegoods

If your washing machine breaks down or your fridge starts to make strange noises don't forget to check our buying guides and reviews before going to the January sales.

  • Washing machines: Our cheapest recommended washing machine (regular family size, 7–9kg) costs $900 and performs better than other machines costing more than double. 
  • Dishwashers: Our cheapest recommended dishwasher (14 place settings) costs $1000 and performs better than other models costing $2000.
  • Fridges: Our cheapest recommended medium-sized fridge costs just $1450 and performs better than other fridges of the same size costing up to $5000.