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Plug your budget leaks so you can sleep well at night

Drains on your budget can be so insidious; you hardly notice the money leaving your account until suddenly you find yourself with a gaping hole. How did it get there? One financial drip at a time.

It’s not hard to catch and fix your budget leaks, but you’ll need to be diligent. Take some time to carefully go over your bills and your general spending. Are you getting the best product or service for your money? You’re looking for any money that’s regularly going out that isn’t giving you a decent return.

Here are some of the more common budget leaks to get you started. Once you’re back on track, set aside some time each month to go over your spending transactions. That way you can find and plug new leaks before they can do damage.

Push your providers

If you’ve been with your bank, insurer, energy provider, health fund or super fund for a while, don’t think your loyalty is being rewarded. New customers will almost certainly be paying a much lower price than you.

You can use this to your advantage. Negotiate with your existing suppliers using the new customer rates being offered by their competition (you can find this out using one of the many comparison websites like Canstar, Finder, Compare the Market or iSelect. You are guaranteed to reduce your existing costs this way, but you may need to take your business elsewhere to get the best possible savings.

Power down

Energy costs are a financial drain, but there are steps you can take to reduce your bills. The first is to push your provider, as outlined above. In NSW, QLD, SA, Tas and NT you can compare energy plans at Energy Made Easy; in Victoria using Victorian Energy Compare; in WA, the only supplier is Synergy.

The second step is to reduce the power you use. That doesn’t mean sitting at home in the dark (although candlelight does add a certain romance to life). Instead, look to plug the seemingly small energy leaks that add up to a substantial amount of money.

  • Phantom power – unplug any appliances you aren’t using
  • Clothes dryers – hang your clothes to dry in the sun for free
  • Heating and cooling – putting on an extra jumper, or sitting outside in the shady breeze cost nothing; or lower your air conditioner temperature in winter and raise it in summer.
  • Refrigeration – your fridge and freezer operate most efficiently when they are full. Pack any gaps with plastic containers filled with water.

Eat wisely

There are several ways you can save money on food without feeling any pain at all.

  • Buy supermarket brands – most are barely distinguishable in taste from the more expensive brands.
  • Shop the discounts each week – use an app like Half Price or Frugl to track what’s on special and buy in bulk when you can
  • Shop at ALDICHOICE found ALDI to be about 30 percent cheaper than Woolworths or Coles.
  • Use supermarket cards – swap points for dollars off your shopping.
  • Eat out less – instead, challenge your cooking skills with a weekly theme night where you cook dishes from around the world. 

Drive costs down

Your car is likely to be one of your biggest budget leaks. Car insurer Budget Direct found that Aussies spent $18,715.32 on car running costs in 2022. Yikes. Here are a few ways you can reduce that cost at your place.

  • Check your insurance – see ‘push your providers’ above.
  • Shop around for petrol – use an app like MotorMouth or Petrol Spy to compare fuel prices near you in real-time.
  • Driver slower – slow and steady wins the fuel-saving race. You should also remove your roof racks and keep your windows up to reduce your car’s aerodynamic drag.
  • Carpool / bike / public transport – in other words, cut down on using your car altogether.
  • Park further away – walking a few extra blocks every time you go somewhere will save money on both fuel and, presumably, your health care costs.