6 tips to help you save money and budget

10 June 2018

There’s no denying that living on a limited income can be challenging and the temptation to ‘treat yoself’ is often very, very real!

So we’ve put together our 6 favourite tips to make it a little easier for you to plan a realistic budget and make it work for you.

1. Write down everything you spend for a month

Take a small notebook with you everywhere you go (or use a note-taking or budgeting app on your smartphone like Evernote, Pocketbook or Fudget) and write down EVERY SINGLE TIME you spend money. Include some basic details like time, location, what you bought and where you bought it from. If you like, you can get more detailed with extra info like who you were with and how you were feeling at the time to help identify patterns in your behaviour. Review the list after one month and you’ll see very clearly what your weaknesses are when it comes to spending. For example:

  • Your daily takeaway coffee could be eating into your budget much more than you realise, e.g. a $4.50 latte every day = $135/month. Solution: make coffee at home and take it with you in a thermos flask or reusable cup OR make do with the free coffee at your workplace if you are lucky enough to have it provided.
  • You may find that browsing the shops during your lunchbreak is a recipe for disaster when those small impulse purchases add up. Solution: go for a brisk walk at lunch instead to clear your head.
  • Do you blow your budget every time you meet friends for dinner and drinks? Solution: speak up and suggest a more wallet-friendly alternative, like a picnic in the park or a bushwalk.
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2. Set a spending limit for outings

Once you’ve completed the step above, you’ll have a good idea what you usually spend on outings and what you can realistically cut this back to with a little forethought and willpower. For example set yourself a $20 limit for outings and stick to it!

3. Open a savings account

Most banks offer dedicated savings accounts linked to your everyday account with higher interest rates and sometimes incentives for regular saving. Speak to your bank about the options or compare savings accounts with a comparison site like Canstar, Mozo or Finder.

4. Put away a little bit of money every week

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Set yourself an achievable savings goal with a dollar amount and a deadline, and start putting away a small percentage of your income every week, for example 10%. The exact figures will depend on your income, expenses and savings goal.

The best way to do this without having to think about it is to set up an automated ‘direct debit’ payment from the account your pay goes into to a dedicated savings account, as soon as you are paid.

You’ll be surprised at how little you miss that small amount but how quickly it adds up when you check the balance. The beauty of this is that when unexpected expenses pop up, your favourite store is having its annual mega-sale, or when you just need a weekend away, you can dip into those savings guilt-free.

5. Shop around for the best price

Taking the time to compare prices across stores before you buy expensive items like electronics can be well worth your while. Websites like Lasoo or Shopbot can help you save time shopping around.

For things like fruit and vegetables, try shopping at your local farmers’ market to score some great deals on fresh produce. Find your closest market here.

Hot tip: do a lap of the market right before the stalls close to nab the best deals! And there’s no shame in scouring the reduced section at your local supermarket; there are some great bargains to be had there.

6. See what you can buy second-hand

Many of the essential and not-so-essential items on your shopping list can be found second-hand for a fraction of the price. For example:

  • Textbooks – check your uni website or noticeboards for information on where to buy second-hand books. This can save you a huge amount of money every year.
  • Clothes – check your local area for the best second-hand stores like Vinnies and Salvos.
  • Furniture – Gumtree and eBay are treasure troves of great second-hand furniture that you can pick up from people your local area.
  • Everything – Facebook Marketplace or Buy Swap & Sell (BSS) groups offer a wide variety of second-hand goods at low prices.

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