As Australia’s super funds reel from the effects of early release super – latest figures show up to 2.4 million people have applied with around $25 billion approved – savings experts say you can easily save more than the withdrawal limit, and leave your super intact.
If you’re struggling financially, there are plenty of ways to boost your bank balance – either by spending less or earning more – without short changing your future self.
Some of these tips, such as changing your providers, can be implemented in a couple of hours, Others, like converting trash into treasure, will take longer. But a combination of some or all of them will get you those extra few thousand dollars you need right now, and not a single dollar needs to come out of your superannuation.
Everyone’s situation is different – many don’t have a spare room, or a mortgage, or time for a side hustle – so everyone will take something different away from this article. But we believe that, with a combination of some or all of these tips, the average Australian household will be able to get their hands on an extra $15,000 over the next year – and not a single dollar needs to come out of your superannuation.
Refinance your mortgage
Say you’ve got a remaining mortgage balance of $500,000 at an interest rate of 3.5%, and you’re paying off $2500 a month, meaning you have 25 years remaining on your loan term. If you’re happy with that loan term, and just want to save some money this year, hunt around for a lower rate and refinance your mortgage. For example, if you switched to a comparison rate of 2.49%, you could drop your monthly repayments to $2071 and save $5100 in a year. Look at sites like Finder, Ratecity and Canstar to find the best mortgage rate for your situation.
As the mobile service providers market widens, there are plenty of options at better rates than those offered by Telstra and Optus. Look to Circles Life’s $28/100gb a month option or Amaysim’s $20/ 5gb a month option. I recently switched from Optus to Circles Life and will save $144 a year. Meanwhile, my boyfriend has bundled his mobile plan with our home wifi on Mate Communicate, to save $10 each month.
The same goes for your home internet provider. The cheapest plan on the market is through new player Tangerine (with their friendly citrus mascot), with unlimited data for $49.90 a month the first six months, then $59.90 a month after that. Switching from a $90-a-month plan will save you $421.20 over the course of the year.
According to the Energy Made Easy site, which compares electricity providers, the difference between the most expensive plan for a two-person household in Sydney, at $1830 per year plus fees, and the least expensive, at $1350, is $480 a year.
Reduce the cost of private health insurance
If you’ve got private health insurance, you may be able to negotiate a discount or pause on your premiums.
For example, James, 36, saw a huge downturn in his work through Uber when COVID hit Australia and managed to negotiate six months of premium-free hospital and extras cover through his health fund, HCF, saving him $1020 over six months. Health funds know they’re better off keeping you as a loyal customer by giving you premium reductions than letting you cancel entirely, so you’ll probably find they’re very open to negotiating. If they won’t negotiate, switch and save.
Have a (virtual) garage sale
Online marketplace Gumtree estimates that 89 per cent of Aussies have unwanted items in their homes – an average of 23 per household apparently – and savvy Marie Kondo-types stand to make $5300 by selling their spare goods. Have a good old-fashioned declutter and flog your spare stuff on Gumtree, eBay, Facebook Marketplace or local buy, swap sell sites.
Apply for a tax withholding variation
Instead of waiting until the end of the financial year to get your tax refund, why not get it paid to you throughout the year? If you know you’ll be due a tax return at the end of the year, lodge a PAYG Withholding Variation application. If it’s accepted, it will direct your employer to withhold less tax from your pay – meaning more cash in your pocket during the year to pay debt, top up your offset account, invest or just pay day-to-day bills. The average refund the ATO paid last year was $2381, so you could free up that much over the next 12 months.
Swap your car and home insurance
The NSW government’s Insurance Monitor found that the “loyalty tax” – when discounts are offered to new customers while longer-term customers pay more – means that customers renewing their policies paid an average of 34 per cent more than new customers. This means that you could save a third of the cost of your policy – potentially more than $1000! – by switching to a new provider. Just make sure you’re still getting a good policy that will cover you in case of any emergencies.
Go Dry July (and August, September, October…)
If you’re fond of a tipple, you’ll be well aware of the high cost of alcohol in Australia. However, that doesn’t tend to slow us down.
The average Australian household spends about $32.25 per week on alcohol, according to data from the National Drug Survey in 2016. Over one year, that means Aussie households are dropping $1,677 on booze, on average. However, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia revealed that spending on bottle shop alcohol was up 42 per cent from this time last year, with spending at pubs and bars was down just 17 per cent, taking the average weekly spend up above $41 per household.
For some people, it’s significantly more. “I decided I had to do Dry July when I spent nearly $200 on one night out,” says Scarlet, 33. “Even nights at home with friends we have a couple of bottles of wine. Then on top of that is the meals at the pubs, the Ubers, the hangover food the next day… I’ll probably save $600 or more over this month.”
Spend your points
Let’s be honest, we’re not going anywhere anytime soon. So rather than letting your Qantas or Velocity points expire, why not use them to buy things you would normally have had to spend money on? If the specific thing you need isn’t available in the Qantas Mall, you can use your Qantas points to buy gift cards for Woolworths Group, David Jones, Myer and JB Hi-Fi, among others, as well as prepaid debit cards to spend on whatever you need. You can pick up a $250 prepaid card for 67,150 points.
Turn trash into treasure
If you’ve got a knack for refurbishing, upcycling or revamping, there’s money to be made from other people’s cast offs. Drew and Brooke, both interior stylists in their early thirties, scour Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and local garage sales, to find free or inexpensive but quality furniture or homewares that people don’t have the skills or inclination to refurbish themselves or are trying to get rid of in a hurry.
They give them a bit of love, doing basic upgrades like sanding, waxing, lacquering or replacing parts such as lampshades, then style them for interiors magazine-type photoshoots for their Instagram account. They can then sell the pieces for significantly more than they bought them for. Drew estimates that before COVID they were making a profit of $2000 to $3000 a month, on top of their full-time salaries.
If you’ve got the skills to repair things – like book binding, re-upholstering, mechanical know-how or sewing – consider starting up a side hustle like this. Many people don’t have the time or skills to repair their broken things, and will happily give them away for free to someone who can.
Sign up to Cashrewards
Cashrewards is a website that lets its members get cash back on purchases made through participating online and in-store retailers. It’s free to join or link your credit or debit card and it gives you actual cash into your PayPal account. There are more than 1000 retailers offering cashback on food and beverage, fashion, health and beauty, travel, electronics and more. Look out for the 5 per cent off Wish gift cards that you can use at Dan Murphy’s, BWS, BIG W, Caltex and Woolworths supermarkets.
The Sydney Morning Herald’s Jessica Irvine suggested a budget of $100 a week per person for groceries (households will likely spend less per person, while singles will spend more), so for a couple, that could save you $10 a week on groceries, plus any cash back you get for other purchases.
Work your casual side hustle
Turn your spare time into spare cash with casual jobs you can do whenever it suits you. If you’re a speedy typer, look into transcription work. If you’ve got writing or design skills, try Upwork or Freelancer for small projects (be aware that the rate of pay may not be what you’re used to). If you’ve got knitting, painting or pottery skills, set up a store on Etsy. If you’re strong and up for a bit of manual labour, use Airtasker to find jobs near you.
Most Saturdays, Ben, 28, rents a van or truck for around $100 and picks up work on Airtasker helping people move house, delivering and setting up Ikea furniture, or picking up bulky items people have bought from Facebook marketplace. He can make $120 for two hours of work, and on a good day can make $400 after the cost of the truck.
“I used to work hospitality and would just do [Airtasker jobs] when I needed the extra cash, but when I was stood down from the cafe I started doing this more often,” he says. “Some days I barely break even, but as long as I have one job booked in before I rent the truck it’s usually worth it, and other gigs pop up during the day so once I have the truck I just keep an eye on the app.”
Health care card
If you’re eligible for government benefits, you’re most likely also eligible for a Health Care card. Benefits of the Health Care card include cheaper prescription medicines, bulk billing for doctor’s appointments, extra refunds for medical expenses, and discounted mail redirection through Australia Post. Some states or local councils also offer concessions on energy and electricity, healthcare, including ambulance, dental and eye care, public transport and rates.
Rent out a room in your house
Many people sing the praises of Airbnb for making a bit of extra cash and it certainly can bring in those extra dollars, but short term house guests aren’t for everyone. Plus, with travel extremely limited at the moment, competition for Airbnb dollars is high. Instead, consider renting your spare room out to a longer term tenant. You may have a friend, or a friend of a friend, who is looking to downsize to save money, or you may know a student looking for a room. You can even advertise on Flatmates.com or local Facebook groups. Depending on where you live and the size of your room, you could be bringing in an extra $100 to $300 a week. Don’t forget to declare the extra income at tax time.
Rent out your car
Peer-to-peer car rental company Car Next Door lets you rent out your car when you’re not using it to make extra cash. If your car, like many other people’s, is sitting idle most of the time these days, this is a good way to make a bit of passive income. Car Next Door estimates that the average annual income from renting a car in Sydney is $4238.
Earn more interest
Interest on savings is at an all-time low but if you need to keep cash on hand (i.e. not invested in the sharemarket or bonds) you might as well have it earning the most interest possible. You may only be earning a couple of dollars a month but every little helps, and if you let it compound it will increase each month. Check out our recent review of high interest savings accounts. Conversely, you can pay less interest if you keep all your cash savings in an offset account linked to your mortgage instead. Do the maths on what makes more sense for you.
Ask for help
If you need help budgeting or coping with added financial pressure during this time, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Money Smart offers ways for you to get in touch with financial counsellors, who can help you get your finances in order for free.