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What to tackle before you start saving

Cutting back on unnecessary spending can help boost your bank balance, build up a savings pot and give you more financial freedom.

Before you can start seriously saving though, it makes sense that you prioritise paying off any expensive, high-interest debt. Things like credit card and store card debt, or payday loans for example.

You won’t earn more on your savings than you’ll pay in interest with these sorts of costly debts.

So, any spare cash should go towards paying them off first.

A few simple tips could save you hundreds of dollars - whether it’s spending less on your shopping, getting paid to switch banks and shop online, or being more savvy with your financial products.

How to save in your everyday lifeComparity New Zealand

1. Spend less on your utilities

What you can do now, though, is be more energy-savvy and reduce the amount of gas and electricity you use.

Try these quick energy-saving tips today:

  • If your heating is on a timer, but you’re going out, then turn radiators down or off. There’s no point keeping an empty home toasty. Set the timer to go off a while before you go to bed so your home’s not being heated unnecessarily when you’re under the covers
  • Use draught excluders around front and back doors and letterboxes, and close the curtains early in the evening to help insulate your home better
  • Switch off unused appliances, chargers, TVs, computers and don’t leave them on standby. Switch off lights if a room is empty
  • Swap to LED energy efficient lightbulbs.
  • Wash clothes at lower temperatures
  • A short shower will use up less energy than a bath

2. Change banks and get free cash

When you switch, your old and new banks will handle all the details. They’ll close your old account, move over your money plus your direct debits and standing orders.

Why not shop around and compare current accounts to see if you can find a home for your money that pays you for switching?

3. Cancel outgoings you don’t really need

Take a look at your bank statements. Are there any direct debits on there you’ve ‘slipped into’ without really meaning to?

For example, you may have taken up the offer of a free trial subscription to Amazon Prime, a streaming service or a food delivery service, then forgot or didn’t bother to cancel. Now’s the time to get rid of it if you really don’t need it and can’t afford it.

Likewise, ask yourself if you’re paying for a gym membership you don’t use, a magazine subscription you never read or yearly admission to a local attraction you rarely visit.

4. Transfer credit card debt to a 0% deal

Move what you owe on one or more of your credit cards onto a 0% balance transfer credit card and pay zero interest on your debt for a set amount of time.

The 0% interest promotional period will vary from by provider – from six months up to 31 months.

Use a credit card eligibility checker before applying to see which cards you’re more likely to be accepted for without affecting your credit score. If you find a card that’s right for you, use the interest free time period to clear your debt on the card and you could save on the interest.

You usually have to pay a balance transfer fee and, after the introductory 0% period ends, the card’s standard interest rate (which can be high) will apply on any unpaid balance on the card. So you need to use the card wisely – and pay off all or as much of your debt as possible while the 0% deal is still valid.

5. Use cashback sites

Make money when you use a cashback site to shop online – whether for fashion and beauty products, holidays, takeaways or train tickets.

Check your current bank account for ‘retailer offers’ too. Many now offer the chance to earn cashback when you choose a retailer offer and use one of your bank cards to pay for goods there.

6. Try a ‘no-spend’ or ‘low-spend’ week or weekend.

Set yourself a challenge to be super-smart (and strict) with your outgoings for a week or weekend once a month.

A ‘no spend’ weekend, for example, could include free activities like going for walks or picnics, searching out free-admission entertainment like art galleries or museums, and having an in-house movie or games night with the family.

For a ‘low spend’ week, you could choose to stop spending on all unnecessary items. (Do you need a new book when you can borrow it from the library? A new shampoo when there’s already plenty in the bathroom cabinet?).

Or you could just choose to cut out one or two aspects of your spending for the week – such as eating at restaurants or cafes and takeaways (including meals and coffees).

7. Spend less on food

  • Cook from scratch – Avoid buying expensive ready-meals and get into the habit of cooking from scratch. Batch cook curries, chillis and bolognese sauces, and freeze what you don’t eat on the day for low-cost convenience meals that just need defrosting
  • Go shopping with a food list – Try not to be tempted to impulse buy ‘off list’ or grab ‘bogofs’ that you don’t really need. Shop online if you find it difficult to avoid being swayed. And never shop when you’re hungry!
  • Consider cheaper brands – Swap to ‘own brand’ labels or ‘value’ products and ‘wonky veg’ – they can be at least a third cheaper

8. Reduce your tax bill

Keep hold of as much of your take-home pay as possible by making sure you’re aware of the tax reliefs you’re entitled to claim.

Have you thought about using accounting software or programmes to manage your funds?

9. Browse ‘incognito’

Try browsing incognito – or in private mode – when you’re searching online for holiday, flights or travel.

It’s thought some companies put up prices when you revisit their website. But using private or incognito mode means they won’t have a record of your previous searches, so won’t increase prices.

Look at our VPN comparison which can help you browse without cookies.

10. Consider overpaying on your mortgage

If you can afford it, then overpaying just a small amount on your mortgage every month can help you pay off your mortgage early and save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Check your lender’s policy before overpaying. Many lenders have limits on how much you can overpay before they start charging steep fees.