Family budgets across the nation are being stretched to the limit as cost of living pressures bite – but there are still ways to save a bucketload.
It’s no secret many households are doing it tough as inflation skyrockets while interest rates keep on rising.
This week, the Reserve Bank announced a bombshell super-sized rate rise of 50 basis points, bringing the official cash rate to 0.85 per cent, in a desperate bid to rein in tearaway inflation.
We’ve seen prices for everyday essentials like fuel, groceries and power explode in recent months due to a perfect storm of conditions, including the war in Ukraine, Covid supply chain disruptions, staff shortages and increased demand.
Meanwhile, Aussies are struggling to pay the bills, with research by comparison site Finder revealing 35 per cent of us are most concerned by rent and mortgage repayments, while 31 per cent are worried by the cost of groceries and 26 per cent are stressed by petrol prices.
Finder research also revealed in May that the average Australian spends $164 per week on groceries for their household, up from $152 in March, while petrol prices have risen by 64 per cent across the country between 2016 and 2022, according to Finder analysis of Consumer Price Index data.
That’s considerably higher than overall inflation and wage inflation over the same period.
NAB research has also found that one in four Australians have recently cut their spending on food delivery services and entertainment amid rising cost of living pressures, with one in two switching to cheaper brands or actively looking for cheaper products, while around four in 10 have cut back or stopped buying micro treats such as coffees, snacks and lunch, and around three in 10 canceled or delayed a major household purchase such as a TV, fridge or washing machine.
But the good news is there are many other easy ways to cut back and save yourself hundreds in the process.
Fuel prices just seem to keep climbing at the moment, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine leading to serious pain at the bowser.
In fact, petrol at some Brisbane service stations cost as much as $2.24 a liter this week, with prices reaching $2.26 a liter in Sydney, $2.25 a liter in Melbourne and $2.24 a liter in Adelaide throughout the week.
But there’s a silver lining for NSW motorists via the NSW Government’s popular FuelCheck app, which helps drivers find the cheapest fuel at the pump.
New figures reveal there have been two million downloads, and NSW Customer Service and Digital Government Minister Victor Dominello said using the technology regularly could save motorists in excess of $800 a year.
“With the long weekend just around the corner, now is the perfect time to download FuelCheck and save,” Mr Dominello said.
“It’s free, easy to use and gives you real-time petrol price information wherever you are across the state.”
There are similar apps and tools in other states and territories too, as well as the My NRMA app.
Joel Gibson, the campaign director at One Big Switch, told news.com.au that in Sydney and Brisbane today some service stations had spiked while others were yet to raise prices, so using fuel apps to track down the right one could save motorists up to 40 cents per litre.
“Sometimes you can get 3-5 per cent off gift cards with Woolworths or Ampol, which you can then combine with your shopper docket discount to get around 10-14c/L off fuel,” he said.
“If you can do without your car or if you’ve got two and only need one, it’s a good time to sell with used car prices up by around 30 per cent.”
Mr Gibson said now was not the time to simply toss items in your supermarket trolley.
“Check prices as we’re seeing temporary spikes in things like lettuce due to the floods,” he said.
“Use the unit pricing to compare value and substitute big brands for home brands.
“Shop at more than one supermarket ideally and pick the eyes out of the 50 per cent off specials and cheapest prices.”
Graham Cooke, head of consumer research at Finder, agreed it was definitely possible to save money on groceries.
“Making a few simple swaps can shave a decent amount off your weekly shop,” he said.
“Frozen veggies can be a cheaper alternative to fresh ones and you won’t need to worry about them going to waste.
“Canned foods like beans and tomatoes are a great addition to soups and stews, as are grains like barley and rice. Depending on your supermarket and what you’re buying, it might also be cheaper to buy in bulk and stock up your pantry.”
He also recommended using grocery comparison apps like Frugl to compare the cost of products between supermarkets.
And when it comes to power bills, Mr Gibson said it paid to switch.
“Get on a cheap fixed-rate plan now if you can – there are still some around although they’re disappearing by the day,” he said.
“Otherwise, just pick a cheap variable rate plan and be prepared to switch again if you have to in the next six months. Once all the retailers have announced their new prices by July 1, you’ll be able to see how your plan compares.
“Make sure you’ve claimed every rebate and concession available to you via state and federal governments – start your search at energy.gov.au.”
Mr Cooke said now was the time to act.
“Call up your current energy provider and find out if they’ll be increasing their rates – some people might have already received emails. You should also ask if you can be moved on to a cheaper plan,” he advised.
“The next step is to start comparing energy plans and possibly signing up to a fixed-rate plan that will lock in rates for 12 months. This means when the July 1 electricity reset comes into effect you’ll likely be spared.
“These plans are fast disappearing so you’ll have to be quick.”
Mr Cooke said most of us couldn’t afford to sit back and do nothing when it came to mortgages.
“Mortgage interest rates have changed a lot over recent years and are typically much lower than they were a few years ago. If it’s been a while since you took a look at your mortgage, you might find you’re paying more than you need to,” he said.
“Refinancing your home loan can help you save thousands of dollars.
“Many experts are expecting mortgage rates to start climbing again later this year, so locking in a lower rate now could set you up for success as inflation rises.”
General money tips
When it comes to money-saving tips, many of us often overlook the basics – but Mr Cooke said preparing a budget was critical.
“Knowing where your money is coming from and where it’s going is the first step to get on top of your finances,” he said.
“Figure out how much the essentials like bills and groceries are costing you and how much you spend on ‘fun’ things like eating out and travelling.
“There are plenty of budgeting apps like the Finder app that let you see all your money in one place. Once you have a rough idea of your spending clothes, you can figure out where there’s room to cut back.”
And if you’re lucky enough to have some spare cash, Mr Cooke said you should consider investing.
“Savings accounts are the safest way to keep your cash, but low savings rates make it near impossible to earn interest on your money,” he said.
“Consider switching to a bonus savings account, which pays extra interest if you meet certain criteria.”