Financial adviser’s 8 tips to unlock hidden savings in 2021.
With around three quarters (73 per cent) of Australian households in debt, many incomes negatively impacted by the recession, and rates for essential services such as household energy increasing, the idea of building up savings might seem an impossible task for many.
To help find ‘hidden’ savings after a difficult year, online financial information platform Money.com.au shares its tips and tricks which, when implemented, could accumulate thousands in saving by the end of the financial year.
“Start reviewing your financial situation in December. I recommend you set a budget every year to give you a clear picture of your personal expenses against your income for the year ahead. Your budget should be a ‘live’ document that you update when any aspect of your expenses or incomes changes. In doing so, you can potentially find thousands of dollars each year. Beyond the budget, you could look at finding hidden savings within each of your essential bills, and use tried-and-proven tactics for paying down debt.”Licensed financial adviser and spokesperson at Money.com.au Helen Baker
8 areas of your finances to review now to avoid paying thousands more in 2021:
Revise direct debit subscriptions and cancel expenses you no longer need.
Automatic direct debits from credit cards can be a real money trap. They are easy to set – and equally as easy to forget. If you want to find some savings in this area, start by going through your credit card statements and identifying all direct debits. Gauge whether you could downgrade some subscriptions, cancel others you no longer use, or take a break from some services you don’t need over the holiday period, for instance. If you sign up for a free trial subscription you don’t want to continue with, set a reminder to cancel it before the first payment is processed.
Check your phone plan for hidden or expired add-ons.
Check your mobile phone plan every few months to ensure you are not being overcharged for expired or additional features. For instance, if you use less than half of your data allowance each month, if your contract allows for it, reduce your base plan. Phone plan contracts also include or add a monthly fee to pay off the handset. Recently, Helen’s two-year mobile contract ended, which she was paying $125 per month for the base plan and handset. She moved to a reduced $45 per month base plan instead, which meant she was saving $80 a month due to her phone already being paid off.
Create your 2021 household or personal budget now.
Start the new year firmly in control of your finances by creating a 2021 budget before January. Start by analysing your 2020 spend to gauge your essential fixed monthly and one-off expenses and minimum discretionary spending against all income. Plan for additional travel and meal expenses in 2021 if you are heading back into the workplace early in the year. The budget will show you the amount of additional income available to you each month. As interstate borders reopen and regional travel is freely encouraged, work out if you can afford a local holiday by creating a ‘travel’ fund in your budget planner.
Use your 2021 budget to lock in your saving commitments.
Once you have a realistic yearly budget, commit to putting away a fixed proportion of your available additional income each month. A good idea is to add a ‘savings’ row in your budget spreadsheet – this tactic can psychologically trick you into viewing this row item like an essential expense.
Factor the income tax cuts into your 2021 savings.
With the new income tax cut introduced this year, you will bring home a little more in your pay. Rather than using it for discretionary spending, Helen recommends putting it towards your savings.
Pay down debts with the highest interest first.
Paying off debts that incur the highest interest first could save you hundreds a year. This means you will be paying off pay day loans (if applicable) first, then your credit cards and store cards before you put additional payments on your personal loans and, lastly, your mortgage.
Consider consolidating your debts if you have several loans.
There are two options to consolidating your debts if you have several outstanding loans. If you cannot pay off your credit card within a reasonable timeframe, consider refinancing your home loan and merging your credit card and personal loans into your mortgage. This move will reduce your credit card interest from around 20 per cent to two-to-three per cent on your mortgage. If you don’t have a mortgage, consider rolling your debts into a zero per cent interest rate credit card through a balance transfer. Money.com.au offers debt consolidation loans to simplify your repayments and reduce interest costs.
Remove irrelevant items from your health cover.
If you have private health insurance, review whether you still need any extras in your policy – such as pregnancy cover – or whether your family circumstances have changed and you no longer need your partner or adult child on the policy. Removing these will reduce your premium.