17 tiny changes that will save you more than $16,000 a year

Whether you're spending or saving, it all adds up. (Photo: Getty)

In the face of rising living costs, high levels of debt and mortgage stress, many Australians are finding it difficult to save money.

But even on an average income, with a little patience and perseverance, it is possible.

Wondering where to start? Here are 17 small changes you can make that can save you over $16,000 a year:

1. Review your insurances, utility bills, subscriptions and memberships

Cancel any non-essential services you’re not using. Work out how much the others costing you and ring the providers. Let them know you’re looking for a better deal and ask what they can do for you.

You’ll be surprised how quickly they respond once they know you’re considering jumping ship. You could save $1,000 a year across these services.

2. Review your debts to ensure they’re structured efficiently to minimise the interest

Speak to your bank or a mortgage broker and ask what’s possible. If you have a home loan of $500,000 at an interest rate of 4.5 per cent, you’ll pay $412,034 in interest over 30 years.

Reduce it by 0.25 per cent and you’ll save $26,452 over the life of the loan. That’s almost $1,000 a year.

3. Pay your bills during the discount period

Many bills, such as council rates and car registration, offer a discount for early payment. You could save more than $250 per year on rates if you pay within the discount period and around $70 on registration.

4. Review your mobile phone plan

Do you really need the $160 per month plan that seemed suitable when you signed up for it? Perhaps the $80 plan would suit just as well. It takes time to sort out, but it could save you $960 a year. Worth it.

5. Pay personal debts as quickly as possible to minimise interest

Pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first, then channel those repayments into the next one. Is the interest rate for your car loan higher than your home loan rate? Focus on paying the car loan as quickly as possible and you could save thousands in interest.

6. Don’t fall into the credit card points trap

Points are not free. In fact, many rewards programs are aimed at making you spend more than necessary. Rewards credit cards usually have higher interest rates and annual fees, too. Consider switching to a lower rate card with no annual fee and you could save $250 a year.

7. Purchase Christmas and birthday gifts during the year

They’ll be on sale and you can put them aside for later. Buy when stores are offering bargains and you will easily save $500.

8. Buy clothes in the season changeover period when most stores offer sale prices.

Consider buying that beautiful winter coat at the end of winter or picking up a new swimsuit when the weather is cooling down. You could save around $750 a year.

9. Don’t smoke. Simple!

It’s an expensive habit which also increases your insurance premiums. With the thousands you’ll save not buying cigarettes, you could go on a great holiday.

You’ll also reduce the cost of income protection, life insurance, and total and permanent disability cover. This could save you $2,500 in premiums each year.

10. Purchase cosmetics and skin care products online

Many websites offer significant savings with prices often around 20 per cent cheaper than retail stores, even for big name brands. By doing this, you could save $250 a year.

11. Don’t grocery shop when you’re hungry!

You’re much more likely to make impulse purchases on an empty stomach, costing an extra $20 each time. Do this once a week and that’s $1,000 a year.

12. Buy commonly used items in bulk

For example, I love my can of Diet Coke every day. If I bought it at the shop, it would be around $3 a day or $1,095 a year. Instead, I buy a carton and pop them in the fridge at work and home, saving me $912 a year.

13. Cancel apps you no longer use

With most subscription-based apps costing a few bucks a month, it adds up. Cancelling a handful of unused apps could save you $200 a year.

14. Round up to chip away at your debts

A friend saved an extra $400 in one month just by rounding up to the nearest dollar every time she made a purchase and putting the ‘change’ toward the home loan. Some bank accounts will even do the rounding for you.

15. Use reusable coffee cups

Most coffee shops will give you a small discount if you take your own cup – and you’ll be helping the environment too. Everybody wins! Bring your own cup and save yourself around $146 a year.

16. Bring leftovers instead of buying lunch.

Although everyone enjoys catching up with friends over lunch, bringing your own lunch just twice a week could save you $1,560 a year.

17. Salary sacrifice into your superannuation

Okay, no one likes talking about superannuation but stick with me. If you take just $20 a week from your pre-salary and put it into your superannuation, that’s $1,040 and a tax saving of $239 each year.

Doing this for just one year, your $1,040 could grow into $4,538 by the time you reach retirement age, making you an extra $3,500.

Saving money doesn’t have to be hard. You just need to start somewhere.

You’ll be amazed at how much you can save by making a few simple changes – so get to it.

Helen Baker is a licenced Australian financial adviser and author of two books: One Your Own Two Feet – Steady Steps to Women’s Financial Independence and On Your Own Two Feet Divorce – Your Survive and Thrive Financial Guide.

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