Your family – whether it’s just you, your partner and a growing bump, or you’ve already got a few kids – is going to cost you a bundle of cash. And the priceless yet pricey gift of a baby will come at a time your household income drops to just one income when you go on maternity leave, making things even trickier.
But there is some good news: you can reduce your household expenses, far more painlessly than you might imagine.
Here are the seven best places to save money instantly.
1. Insurance costs
These and the next two expenses fall into the so-called fixed-cost category – and they’re anything but. If you’ve been with a provider for two years or more, your inflated premiums and payments are subsidising the fat discounts used to entice new customers. So it’s simple – become one of those new customers. When it comes to insurance, the simplest savings are from switching building, contents and car policies – likely 15 per cent each. You could reclaim that amount on health insurance too, or secure better cover for no extra, and won’t have to sit through any waiting periods.
2. Utilities bills
Latest bill enough to bring tears to your eyes? Change provider. The biggest savings are on offer where there have been the biggest hikes: power. Market researcher Energy Watch says that on average you could come out almost $400 a year ahead. If you’re required to sign up for a fixed period, though, be sure it’s worth it.
3. Mortgage repayments
Here’s where you’ll undoubtedly make the largest savings. The difference between the average and best mortgage rate in the market is typically a full percentage point. That might not sound much but on a $300,000, 25-year mortgage it’s more than $180 a month, or $50,000 overall. You might even be able to get your existing lender to deliver this, saving you the switching rigmarole, if you threaten to leave.
4. Grocery spend
There’s much you can do to cut your shopping bill. Think about:
- going in with friends or neighbours to do bulk shops at food and growers markets
- supermarket shopping late at night when perishables are discounted for quick sale (and the baby is sleeping)
- buying own-brand goods only, which are increasing in quality and variety
- planning your meals and picking up only the necessary goods
- cooking in-season meals so ingredients are cheapest. Recipes in current publications will be a guide to what's around.
Hip-pocket help: farmersmarkets.org.au
5. Mobile bills
Prices are still tumbling in this competitive sector – so much so that it might even be worth paying upfront for your next handset so you can keep moving to the better deals. New player Amaysim, for example, charges $39.90 a month for unlimited calls and texts, as well as a generous data allowance. If you’re calling overseas, doing so online using VOIP (Skype) is dirt cheap.
6. Entertainment costs
A baby will either save you money by curtailing your socialising, or just add the cost of a babysitter on top. Ways to save include taking advantage of free family activities like our glorious parks and beaches, recreating the restaurant or cinema experience at home, and buying The Entertainment Book (about $70 through a charity of your choice) for tremendous entertainment discounts.
Hip-pocket help: entertainmentbook.com.au
7. Shoes, clothes and present outlay
With Aussie consumers hanging onto their hard-earned cash, sales are everywhere every day. Think ahead to the whole year, especially the constant kids’ birthday parties, and snap up the bargains when you can.
Nicole is editor-at-large of afrsmartinvestor.com. Follow her on Twitter: @NicolePedMcK.