10 easy ways to handle the rising cost of living

A collage hand drops a speech bubble into a cartoon piggy bank. Blue background.

Inflation bites at the moment, hey? From food to fuel to housing, the ballooning cost of living has got many Australians breathing into a paper bag.

But calm down: it’s not all hopeless. Until wages keep pace with the Consumer Price Index, we can tighten the proverbial belt. So let’s review some of the best, quick cost-saving tips to implement ASAP: consider it therapy for your wallet. 

Here’s ten easy ways to save on the cost of living.

1. Cut down your energy usage – big time

A radiator against an orange wall.

“Heat the human, not the home” ain’t a bad philosophy as we head into winter. Instead of heating the whole room with an energy-guzzling heater, rug up with some woolly clothes or invest in an electric blanket instead. 

Once that’s tackled, think big picture with your energy usage to find other ways to save. Use plug-in timers or turn off unnecessary gadgets ghosting power overnight or while you’re out, like your WiFi router, microwave, TV, etc. 

Long-term, compare energy plans and consider switching if you find a better deal. If you already have some savings in the bank, consider upgrading your home with better insulation. A few grand now could save you hundreds of thousands in electricity bills later – as well as the environment!

2. Switch your bank account

A hand scans a debit card on a card reader.

Now may be a great time to find a more lucrative way to park your savings. Most people tend not to switch bank accounts because they believe it’s too hard or complicated – but this only helps the banks, not you.

Thankfully, it’s actually pretty easy to switch banks and save. Compare high interest savings accounts to find better deals and interest rates, then put in an application to grow your savings.

If you’re not sure how to grow the account you already have, you could try these 6 fun savings challenges. Term deposit interest rates are already rising, so now may be a good time to jump at the opportunity if you have some money you don’t mind storing for a little while.

Neobanks also present exciting new financial alternatives, so be sure to explore all your options when reevaluating how you save.

3. Buy groceries online, or from small local shops

A hand holds a cartoon jar of fruit and veggies.

Ever heard of the Gruen Effect? It’s why you often buy much more than you originally intended when grocery shopping. Turns out supermarkets are designed to hack our brains and encourage us to spend, spend, spend. 

Instead, hack them back by buying online. YouGov found that Australians could actually save as much as  $1,360 annually by ordering groceries online. This way, you can carefully track what’s going in your basket – and watch your total as you shop. 

(Here’s some of the best online grocery shops for you to compare).

You could also sign-up for a meal kit delivery service instead, so that way you don’t have to spend time deciding what to get.

Food prices are going up on the whole, however, especially in meats, dairy, fruits and veggies, and starchy foods like pasta. To save, consider buying locally grown, year-round Australian produce like broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce. Make substitutions, like rice instead or pasta, or downgrade your brands to cheaper options from smaller retailers.

In the meantime, challenge yourself to eat everything in your fridge (so long as it’s in date), cook in bulk with a slow cooker, and use the microwave instead of the oven (which saves power too, woohoo!).

4. Rethink your commute

Collage of a woman walking to work.

If the current sky-high petrol prices are making you cry (they’re sure making us cry), cut corners on your bills (not the roads) by using government fuel check apps to compare servo prices. Thankfully, the government recently gouged the fuel excise tax, so retailers will be expected to pass on the savings to their customers ASAP.

Being proud Aussies, we also get to enjoy access to decent public transportation. Rethink your work commute by carpooling, biking, or catching the bus where you can. Now’s definitely the time to take full advantage of working from home, too.

But if that still doesn't cut it, have a look at the fuel reward discounts on offer at the moment to see if they could make a difference to your budget.

5. Switch your mobile/broadband provider

Collage of phones coming out of the couch.

Internet and mobile access have fast become essentials – and telcos know it. Hence they’ll sneak sneaky fees into your bills, like excess data charges, or reduce your speeds till you’re watching videos 10 seconds at a time.

Don’t put up with it: compare mobile and broadband providers to find a better deal. Look for coverage, discounts, and extra perks (sometimes you can get free streaming for a year or data bonuses depending on the provider/plan). 

If you don’t use your mobile phone that often, you could save big time by switching to a prepaid plan instead of a postpaid one. This way, you know upfront what you’re spending and what you’ll get (rather than getting slapped with surprise excess data fees at the end of the month).

Certain providers like Vodafone also offer bundling discounts (with T&Cs, of course), so you could save by getting your mobile and broadband from the same place.

Nowadays, it’s pretty common for providers to offer no lock-in contracts, so switching is easier than ever. The key, though? Do your research, and get ruthless about what you really need. No point in spending more than you have to!

6. Track your spending with a smart money app

Collage of a woman swiping on her phone.

The tech boffins have manifested some pretty amazing smart money apps to help you keep track of your spending. Instead of trawling through your bank statements, get AI to do it for you. Download a money-saving app of your choice then have a look at where your money's going. Once you have a clearer idea of your expenses, you can decide what you can do without.

HOT TIP: Instead of spending dozens of dollars on streaming services, join your local library and access Kanopy for free, which lets you stream up to 20 free movies a month. Heck yes!

7. Actually make a budget

Collage of a woman thinking about different budget expenses.

“Make a budget” sometimes feels like the buzzkiller of personal finance. But budgets aren’t there to hurt your spending: they’re actually there to empower your spending. Don’t be scared of a budget.

For people on a salary or fixed income, budgets actually give you an idea of how much you have to spend, and how much you have left over. Think of it like a game: if you save more here, you have more to spend there. It’s all about finding the right balance for your lifestyle and needs.

Again, the tech boffins have developed some heckin’ awesome budget apps to make budgeting as easy (and fun) as possible. Why not try a few? 

While you’re at it, have a go at our free budget calculator. Remember: budgets are friends, not food. Wait…

8. See if you’re eligible for government benefits or vouchers

A screenshot of the Victorian government travel voucher page against a background of the Twelve Apostles.

Believe it or not, the Australian government is also panicking about the economy. Just feels nice to know we’re not alone, y’know?

Sarcasm aside, there are a wide variety of benefits available through Services Australia for eligible claimants. 

Different states and territories have also announced a range of travel and discovery vouchers to encourage people to spend locally, so check out your local Service Apps to see what you might be eligible for.

(Here’s some guides on the current NSW and Victorian travel voucher schemes).

9. Get amongst the free activities

Collage of a woman smiling about summer activities.

Free fun is the best fun! Unplug for a day and explore free activities in your local area. Most cities will have free museums or council run parks, gardens, walks, and beaches for your enjoyment. Brew a cuppa and do a little bit of research: your next adventure could be budget-friendly and just down the road.

10. Sell stuff you aren’t using

Collage of a couch walking away on legs.

Last but not least: if you aren’t using it, sell it. Places like eBay, Gumtree, and Facebook Marketplace provide great platforms for getting rid of old items for a small profit. Clothes, old electronics, books, furniture, and even flipped items/arts & crafts could net you some quick cash for your savings.

As an added bonus, recycling items this way also saves the environment, since you’re reducing waste. Score!

Concerned about the rising cost of living? Head over to our family finances hub for more money saving tips. You can also browse and compare savings accounts below to grow your nest egg.

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