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Budgeting and Saving

Budgeting and saving tips from a variety of sources to help you manage your money, whether it’s to save for a home deposit or to make renting more affordable.

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One of the most challenging aspects of buying a house is making sure you have enough money to cover the deposit and ongoing loan repayments.

The sooner you start saving money, the quicker you will be able to live in your own home.

Get financial support

Financial support is available for people who are on low incomes or experiencing financial hardship. 

Visit the following websites to check which government payments and services you may be eligible for.

Some community organisations, such as Good Shepherd Microfinance, offer reduced cost financial products for people on low incomes.

  • Good2GoNow – for cheaper whitegoods and electronics

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Set a budget

Step 1: Set your goal

Work out the aims of your budget, whether it's to save for a house deposit or stay on top of bills. This will help you work out your total budget saving goal and decide where you want your money to go.

Step 2: Monitor your spending habits and identify expenses

Monitor your transactions over one month to get a clear picture of the regular expenses and spending habits you need to include in your budget. Resources for monitoring your spending include using phone apps (e.g. MoneyBrilliant, Pocketbook), downloading your online banking transactions, and reviewing any statements/receipts from purchases. You may also wish to keep a record of what you spend, including the amount, purchase details and date.

Categorise the relevant data, including your income and expenses, in the following way.

  • Fixed expenses:
    • rent or home loan payments
    • electricity, gas or phone bills
    • council rates
    • household expenses like food and groceries
    • medical costs and insurance
    • transport costs, like car registration and public transport
    • family costs like baby products, childcare, school fees and sporting activities
  • Debt expenses:
    • personal loan repayments
    • credit card payments
    • home loan repayments
  • Unexpected expenses:
    • car repairs and services
    • medical bills
    • extra school costs
    • pet costs.

Once you have monitored your spending habits and identified your expenses, use a spreadsheet to calculate your overall expenses and income.

Step 3: How much to save

After subtracting all your expenses from your income, determine how much you want to contribute to your savings goal each budget period from what is left after expenses. You may also want to allocate some of your left-over funds for spending on entertainment, eating out and hobbies. Consider setting up three bank accounts: one for high interest savings; and two transaction accounts, one for spending and one for bills.

Step 4: Review and adjust

Regularly review your budget and make adjustments as necessary. For example, you may need to reduce your spending budget if you find yourself being unable to cover all your expenses or you may need to reduce your savings rate when you have a period of unexpected expenses (e.g. car repairs). 

Review your budget at least once a year. If you are spending the money that you have put away for savings, look for ways to cut back.

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Credit cards

Credit cards with high interest rates (such as 25 per cent or more) can affect your budgeting efforts. Use the following tips to manage your credit card payments.

  • Set up a direct debit payment to avoid missing payments (and late fees)
  • Pay your monthly balance in full (avoid interest)
  • Consolidate your cards (saving on fees and making payments easier)
  • Ensure your credit limit is no more than one or two times your monthly pay 
  • Spend only what you can repay within a two-month timeframe
  • Avoid taking cash advances (which usually attract a higher fee)
  • Shop around for the lowest fees and best rates.

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Open a savings account

Savings accounts typically provide a higher interest rate and more restricted access than a transaction account (which can be useful to help you limit impulse purchases). Avoid the temptation to spend discretionary money by setting up an automatic, scheduled transfer from your transaction account to your savings account, preferably the same day you are paid (if regular).

For additional savings, some banks offer ‘rounding’ services where daily transactions are rounded to the nearest dollar amount, with the difference transferred to a savings account. For example, if you buy some takeaway food for $25.60, the transaction is rounded up to $26, with 40 cents sent to your savings account. 

While 40 cents might not seem like much, regular rounding of transactions can quickly result in a useful savings boost.

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Focus on regular expenses and shop around

Focus on your regular expenses and try to find savings by shopping around and renegotiating your current plans. Look at your energy provider (electricity, gas), insurances (home, motor, health), phone plan and streaming subscriptions (e.g. Netflix, Spotify). For example, insurance can cost thousands of dollars each year, so reducing the cost by 10 per cent by shopping around or renegotiating you could save hundreds of dollars. If you find a cheaper insurance provider, try ringing your current provider and see if they will match a lower quote.

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Limit impulse spending

With credit cards, store cards, ATMs and online shopping it’s very easy to spend money and impulse buy, especially for things that are wanted rather than needed. Use the following tips to avoid succumbing to temptation and limiting your impulse spending:

  • Use cash. Tapping your card is easy but can make it difficult to keep track of the amount of money you are spending.
  • Unsubscribe from retail subscriptions. Avoid the temptations from store emails that promote big discounts and free shipping.
  • Calculate how many hours of work it would take to pay for the item. If it would take a full day or week to pay for the item, measure that against how much you really want the item – you may reconsider.
  • Be careful with ‘shop now, pay later’ options (e.g. Afterpay). These deferred payment platforms make it more tempting to impulse buy.
  • Wait to buy. If you see something you like, try waiting at least a day before you buy it. You might find the urge passes.

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Plan your meals

Meal planning is one of the easiest ways to save money. If you know what you are eating for the week and shop accordingly, you can avoid expensive takeaways and random visits to the supermarket. 

You can also save money by avoiding convenience stores and buying all your staple items at lower priced supermarkets. Try basing your shopping list on the food that you already have in the fridge and cupboard before going to the supermarket. Check the supermarket catalogues while meal planning to try and incorporate cheaper specials. 

Making big batches of certain meals and freezing them for use on busier nights when you might not have time to prepare your dinner is also a great way to save money and avoid takeaway food.

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Smooth your bills

Knowing when expenses are due can help you plan and stay in control of your money.

‘Bill smoothing’ is a payment system sometimes offered by utilities service providers (e.g. gas, electricity, water). It allows you to pay in fortnightly or monthly instalments instead of a large lump sum at the end of the quarter. Most service providers will be happy to arrange different payment arrangements for you, usually set up as a direct debit from your bank account.

If your service providers don’t offer bill smoothing, arrange your bank accounts by putting aside a set amount each week for use to pay the quarterly (or monthly) bill as it’s received.

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Disclaimer

Advice contained in this website is only of a general educational nature and should not replace financial advice from a qualified professional, tailored to your specific and personal circumstances.

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