Everyday Tips to Save Money in Australia

Need some simple tips for saving money in Australia? We asked our money-saving expert Joel Gibson for his Top 20 must-know, easy-to-do, no-BS money saving tips.

I’m not a big fan of long lists of money saving tips that tell you to do things like “Ditch your daily barista coffee and save $1000 a year!” Of course you can save a buck if you do without all the fun things in life. But it’s not necessary! You don’t need to be miserable to be good at saving money. The secret is to develop some good habits, focus on winning at the big bills, and don’t sweat the small stuff. That way you can save thousands of dollars without living like a monk or a nun.

My motto is:

"Spend as little as possible on the boring stuff so you’ve got more to spend on the fun stuff."

So here goes… my top 20 need-to-know, no-BS money saving tips for Australians.

1. Starve your bank

Make sure you’re paying your bank as little as possible. Banks have a way of taking more of our money than any other business. Get on a low mortgage rate if you’re a home-owner. Switch every couple of years if it’ll save you money. Think of it this way: if you’ve got a $600,000 mortgage and a rate of 4%, cutting your rate by 1.00% will save you $322 a month, or $3864 a year! Also - If you’ve got a credit card, ditch the 20% interest rate by switching to a 0% balance transfer deal for up to 3 years and pay it down so you’re debt-free. Never look back.

Potential saving: $1000s.

2. Ditch over-priced telcos

If you've never shopped around for cheaper telco services, chance are you're paying hundreds more than you have to. It’s possible for some of us to save over $600 a year by switching our mobile and NBN to smaller, hungrier providers. In some regional areas, you might need a certain network for good reception - but in most of Australia you have a choice. Check out amaysim’s killer mobile deals and world-famous customer service for starters. And try a comparison website such as whistleout.com.au for a better NBN deal – or if you want to see how much more competitive some of the smaller telcos are.

Potential saving: Up to $600.

3. Get rid of the landline, if you still have one

When was the last time anyone called it - apart from a phone company or a scammer or a telemarketer? Landlines now cost MORE than an average mobile plan, and you can’t even take them out with you. Just cancel it, tell all your friends, divert the number to your mobile for a few months and revel in your newfound freedom.

Potential saving: Up to $660.

4. Cut the Pay TV cord too

The biggest pay TV packages cost close to $150/month. But you can get most of the same content now via streaming services for around $50/month. That’s a potential saving of over $1000 a year, with no downside! I don’t even have a TV aerial at my place: we watch all the free-to-air TV channels on their free streaming apps, via the internet.

Potential saving: Up to $1200.

5. Take ALL the free trials

If you took up every single free trial on every single streaming service back-to-back, you could potentially watch every TV series on earth and not pay a cent for about 6 months! Netflix and Disney Plus no longer have free trials, but almost every other streamer does – start with Stan (30 days), Amazon Prime (30 days), Binge (14 days), Apple TV+ (7 days), Paramount+ (7 days) and Kayo Sports (14 days). You can also share your login with other members of your household of course – while streaming services frown on password sharing between people who don’t live together, they encourage it for those who do. [AH1]

Potential saving: Up to $1000.

6. Make sure your energy plan isn’t a rip-off

The difference between a good plan and a dud can be $500 over the year. It’s so easy to switch these days in most states: just visit one of the comparison websites (try Energy Made Easy or Victorian Energy Compare or wattever.com.au), find the cheapest plans and switch to one of them. It takes about 5 minutes to fill out the form and an average home can save hundreds. Piece of cake!

Potential saving: Up to $500.

7. See if anyone has any of your money

There are billions of dollars of OUR money sitting in government coffers from when we’ve changed addresses or left bank accounts untouched for years. To see if any of it is yours, you just need to search the ASIC website (for federal government money) and your local state government website (google “unclaimed money” and the name of your state).

Potential saving: $1000s.

8. Shop at more than one supermarket

I once calculated that if I do my family shop at Aldi AND Coles I can save around $1600 a year by picking the eyes out of the best prices at each supermarket. You don’t have to do it every week but share your love around a bit and bulk buy your non-perishables and you’ll save. You can check the catalogues online from Monday night each week to see who has the best specials at Coles, Aldi & Woolies before hitting the shops.

Potential saving: Up to $1600.

9. Eat less meat

Even if you’re a meat-lover, it’s good for the planet and the wallet to mix it up a bit. Find a good butcher and a good fish shop and support them, but eat better meat less often and eat more vegetables. Try ‘Meat Free Mondays’ for starters. (Except on the weekend: eat whatever you want on the weekend!)

Potential saving: $100s.

10. ‘Lose’ your credit card once a year

…by which I mean, cancel it and order a new one. I realised this when I lost my card in a Bali ATM: there are all sorts of direct debits and subscriptions that are sucking blood from your account like little vampires and cutting them off is a good way to re-assess which ones you can do without.

Potential saving: Up to $200.

11. As a matter of fact, chop your Credit Card up

They’re no longer necessary. And they’re a debt trap. Unless you pay it off every month religiously, get a debit card instead. It does pretty much all the same things without the 20% interest and the points. But no points is a small price to pay for no debt.

Potential saving: $100s in interest.

12. Don’t just pull in at the first petrol station you see when the light goes on

This can cost you about $15-$20 a tank extra, and hundreds over the course of a year. Check the prices first on an app - almost every state in Australia now makes petrol stations share their pricing with app developers every 15 minutes or so. Check out Motormouth or EzySt or Fuelmap Australia - or your local state government’s fuel price app - and find the cheapest petrol before you decide where to fill up.

Potential saving: $100s.

13. Sell your car

It’s not an option for some of us. But with petrol prices at record highs and used cars selling for up to 30% more than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, there are big savings to be had right now. There are more alternatives than ever before: there’s public transport, of course, or cycling - now a bit easier thanks to e-bikes. There’s rideshare such as Uber and Ola. Or there are fantastic carshare companies such as Car Next Door and GoGet where you just jump online and rent a car when you need one - with no need to pay for rego, insurance or servicing.

Potential saving: $1000s.

And while I'm up here on my soapbox, here are a few other things I've learnt about how to win at money...

14. Pay yourself first

Set up automatic transfers every month on payday or the day after and divert your money into separate accounts set up for savings or emergencies or fun. Financial advisers used to call this “the envelope strategy” because people did it with envelopes back in the days when they were paid in cash. One popular version is known as the “50:30:20 rule”. The Barefoot Investor Scott Pape renamed them “buckets” and this is now one of the most popular budgeting tricks in Australia. Of course, you could also make a detailed budget to track your spending but this method achieves a similar result by quarantining your money for different purposes.

What is the ‘50:30:20 rule’?

This is one of the simplest ways to divvy up your money. It involves putting aside:

  • 50% for Needs - everyday expenses such as food, rent or mortgage, power and telco bills, healthcare and transport.
  • 30% for Wants - the fun stuff, aka “discretionary spend” such as takeaway or eating out, coffee, nights out or shopping.
  • 20% for Savings - the money you’re putting aside for emergencies, extra repayments, a home deposit or investing.

Of course, you can adjust as needed to suit your life and your goals - just make sure you stick to the plan once you’ve set it in motion.

15. Use a broker, but don’t let them use you

A broker works for the bank, or the insurance company, not for you. But that’s not to say they can’t be useful. A good broker will save you time and money by letting you know which lenders will want your business and where the best deals are. One way to use a broker is to do your own research and bring them a good deal you found and say “Can you beat it?”

16. Don’t be afraid to try the smaller brands - they’re cheaper

We like brands we know, but the reality is all banks or telcos or utilities in Australia are regulated according to the same standards as one another. Smaller challenger brands usually have lower overheads and they have to try harder to win customers, so you can sometimes get more for less with the little guys.

17. Don’t spend too much time scrolling through things you can’t afford on the internet

Browse good jokes and great art instead.

18. Never take the first offer

Whether it’s finance at the car dealership, or the deal your energy company is offering you, or even a job offer, there’s usually some room for you to negotiate a better deal. Just ask.

19. Never buy anything, ever, from someone who knocks on your door

It just encourages people to go door-to-door selling stuff. If the product was any good, they wouldn’t need to walk the streets trying to sell it.

20. Rewards schemes are mostly a waste of time

They’re what expensive brands do to make you feel better about paying extra.

Remember: There will always be someone with more money than you. There will always be someone with less. Just try to be the happiest of the three.

Joel Gibson is amaysim’s “Money-Saver in Residence” for 2022. He’s a money-saving expert who wrote the book KILL BILLS! He shares his best tips and hacks regularly at the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Today Show, 2GB, 4BC and ABC Radio.