How's your credit card looking after doing all the Christmas shopping? Have you made yet another New Year's resolution to be better with your money? Whatever your situation, we could probably all do with spending a little less and saving a little more.
Make 2021 the year that you take charge of your finances. We've tapped into the CHOICE hive mind to bring you savings tips from our experts and CHOICE Community consumer crusaders so you can rein in your spending and make your purchases work harder for you.
How to save money on bills
Avoid the loyalty penalty
If you've been with a particular provider for a while, shop around for a better deal before you continue doing business with them to avoid paying the 'loyalty penalty'. It's also worth asking your current provider what they can do to keep your business. – Dan, CHOICE insurance expert
Do some research before your policy is due to auto-renew. What you'll get as an existing customer is unlikely to be as good a deal as what you'll get as a new customer. – Dan, CHOICE insurance expert
Visit doineedhealthinsurance.com.au to find out if you could save money on taxes by buying a policy. If so, also look at paying an excess on your hospital insurance policy – this can save you as much in premiums as the excess would cost. – Uta, CHOICE health insurance expert
What you'll get as an existing customer is unlikely to be as good a deal as what you'll get as a new customer
For compulsory third party (CTP) insurance, you can save hundreds of dollars with services like the Green Slip Price Check (NSW), the Motor Accident Insurance Commission's CTP Premium Calculator (Queensland), ACT Treasury website (ACT), and the NT Government's information on registration fees (CTP costs are included in the rego fee in the NT).
For small claims (less than $1000), consider not claiming through your policy as it can increase your premiums. You could also look at increasing your excess to minimise your premiums.
For damage under $1000, consider not claiming through your policy as it can increase your premiums.
With international travel off the cards, many Aussies are planning to travel at home this year. Domestic travel insurance is unlikely to cover you for COVID-19 or related travel bans. Remember the bushfires that extinguished our summer holidays last year? Well, this year, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology is predicting floods.
If you've paid a lot for your Aussie holiday, are hiring a rental car, or travelling with sporting equipment, you can get good value out of domestic travel insurance. But if you've scored a budget airfare and cheap accommodation, you might be better off claiming what you can from the airline and accommodation provider if things go awry. – Jodi, CHOICE travel expert
Get a better deal by shopping around for a new energy provider. Solar is also a great way to reduce your energy bills. Not sure if solar is for you? Check out our four steps to getting started with solar.
Our Solar Estimator will give you an idea of the cost of solar for your home and help you get quotes from reliable solar installers. – Chris, CHOICE solar expert
Don't pay more in fees than you have to. If you call your credit card company just before the annual fee is due and threaten to cancel the card, they may just waive it. And if you're paying a lot of interest, switch to a low-interest credit card. – Ashley, CHOICE staff
If you call your credit card company just before the annual fee is due and threaten to cancel the card, they may just waive it
Beat the bowser blues by doing your homework on when and where to fill up your car, and check out sites like MotorMouth which tell you which service stations currently have the lowest rates. – David, CHOICE staff
If you've been a rusted-on customer, you may get a better deal by shopping around for a new phone or internet provider. If you're signing up to a new plan, make sure you check how much data you've been using – you may not need as much as you think. And if you're switching to the NBN, it's worth checking out some of the smaller providers and seeing if they have a contract-free option to test out their services. Speed matters too – smaller households can often get by on a 50/20 plan. Check out our reviews of the top NBN plans and deals before you sign up. – Alex, CHOICE NBN expert
How to save money around the home
Food and groceries
- Buy cheap cuts of meat and cook them in a slow cooker. To make meat go further, serve over rice or pasta, or add canned beans or lentils to stews and casseroles. – Rachel, CHOICE food and nutrition expert
- Check the unit pricing when buying fruit and veg – sometimes pre-packaged fruit and veg can be cheaper than loose and vice versa – Rachel, CHOICE food and nutrition expert
To make meat go further, serve over rice or pasta, or add canned beans or lentils to stews and casseroles
- Join a fruit and vegetable co-op and shop in bulk together at your nearest fresh produce market. It will increase your fruit and veg consumption and you'll get cheaper and longer lasting good-quality food. – Denise, CHOICE staff
- Subscribe to the Aldi online newsletter for a heads-up on the Wednesday and Saturday specials. – CHOICE Community member
- Check the sneak peek Coles catalogue after 5pm on Mondays to decide whether to shop on Tuesday or Wednesday. Check your local Supa IGA catalogue on Wednesday. – CHOICE Community member
- Forget about buying floor cleaner: our lab tests have shown that it's no more effective than using plain water. – Ashley, CHOICE staff
Sometimes pre-packaged fruit and veg will be cheaper than loose, and sometimes not. Always check the unit price to save money.
You only need to use half the recommended dose of washing powder to get a great wash. And don't bother with fabric softener – it actually makes your towels less absorbent and can reduce the fire retardancy of clothes. Read our guide to fabric softeners to find out more. – Ashley, CHOICE whitegoods expert
You can reduce your energy bills by choosing energy-efficient appliances. And if you have solar, use the timer on your appliances to run them during peak power generation while you're at work. – Ashley, CHOICE whitegoods expert
Price doesn't always correlate with performance. Our reviews often find cheaper products that outperform models costing twice as much. – Every CHOICE tester, ever.
You only need to use half the recommended dose of washing powder to get a great wash
Buying an appliance that fails to live up to expectations can cost you more in the long run. To avoid ending up with a dud appliance, check out CHOICE's reviews before you buy:
- Washing machine reviews
- Fridge reviews
- Dishwasher reviews
- Oven reviews
- Vacuum cleaner reviews
- BBQ reviews
- Air conditioner reviews
- Heater reviews
How to make your money go further
If you're a pensioner or hold a Health Care Card or Seniors Card, find out what benefits you can get through your local, state and federal governments or businesses. You may be able to get concessions on transport, motor vehicle registrations, rates, utilities, medications and medical supplies, animal registrations, events and movie tickets. You may also be able to have your credit card fees wiped when paying bills. Don't hesitate to ask if any business or service offers reductions based on your having one of these cards. – CHOICE Community member
When shopping online, especially for hotels or clothes, search around for a discount code or coupon (e.g. "hotels.com.au discount code"). New promo codes pop up all the time and there's a bunch of websites that keep track of them. If you're willing to sacrifice your email address, you can often get 5–10% off by signing up to a newsletter (and once that code lands in your inbox you can always smash the unsubscribe button). – Emily, CHOICE campaigner
If you find a good deal on a comparison booking site, visit the airline or hotel's website to see if you can get a better rate
If you find a good deal on a comparison booking site, visit the airline or hotel's website to see if you can get a better rate. Try to contact them directly and ask if they can beat the price you found online – it's worth their while, since they lose a percentage of their fee when they receive bookings through a third-party site. For more information, read our article on how to get the best deal on hotel booking sites. – Elisabeth, CHOICE travel expert
For big-ticket purchases, consider negotiating to get a better price. For tips on haggling, read our article on how to bargain. – Rebecca, CHOICE staff
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.