An iceberg lettuce is made up of 96% water and on average weighs 1kg. With the price of a lettuce peaking at $12, you are effectively getting 40grams of (completely dehydrated) lettuce at the equivalent cost of $300 a kilo.
Needless to say, there is definitely no iceberg lettuce to be seen at the Quach household (and my kids are not complaining about that).
The bugbear of the economy and for what many people are experiencing across the world right now is record levels of high inflation.
Very simply, we are seeing an increase in the cost of most goods and services as a result of factors such as rising commodity prices, rising wages, supply constraints, the war in Ukraine, mother nature trying to tell us to avoid lettuce, and a relatively low (but rising) interest rate environment.
We are seeing inflation most in fuel costs, energy prices, groceries, and building materials.
Despite this, it amazes me that I can still get on a one-way Jetstar flight from Sydney to the Gold Coast at the same cost as it would be for me to take an Uber or Taxi to the airport ($60).
So rather than trying to fight the system, I am going to try my best to make the most of it and be smarter about my spending.
Spending or Saving?
When I think about saving money, I inherently think about spending money. I’m either trying to buy something that’s at a discounted price, or I’m choosing to not buy something because it’s not something I really need or really want.
As a child, I grew up in a household where every single dollar mattered, and that was out of necessity rather than by choice. Fortunately, as time has passed, my spending these days is more centred around the concepts of ‘value and opportunity cost’.
We work hard for the money that we earn, so let’s make sure that it is spent wisely and that every dollar that leaves our actual or virtual wallet gets the best bang for buck. Finding value is about taking control of our spending, making wise choices and prioritising those things which are most important to each of us as individuals.
Getting back to basics
Saving money is about recognising that there are lots of small things we can do everyday that all add up, whilst at the same time there are also big things we can do that can also have a significant impact to our bottom line.
Everything is relative and we need to measure this against the value of our time, convenience, and lifestyle, however I’ve listed a few areas for consideration that can provide you with quick some wins.
- Discounted gift cards
In the past, gift cards were fraught with danger especially when they had limited expiry periods and were purchased at the same cost as their face value. These days, expiry periods are generally around up to 36 months they can often be purchased at a discount and be managed and used easily via apps on your phone.
An example of some basic discounts that are easily achieved on everyday spending via physical or e-gift cards https://www.ozbargain.com.au/wiki/discounted_egift_cards:
- Amazon – up to 5%
- Ampol – up to 5%
- Big W – up to 5%
- Coles – up to 4%
- Dan Murphy’s – up to 5%
- Ikea – up to 5.0%
- Rebel – up to 10%
- Uber eats – up to 4.0%
- Ticketek – up to 8%
- Woolworths – up to 4.5%
- Electricity and gas usage
Rising electricity and gas usage has become more costly as energy prices spike across the globe. It’s important that you regularly review your electricity and gas provider at least once a year, and July is a good time to do it.
Most providers will provide ongoing discounts of up to 20%, but you need to ensure that you are running a like for like comparison. A great place to compare energy plans is the government-based website: https://www.energymadeeasy.gov.au.
The largest cost that people will incur during Winter are heating costs. Reducing costs here are about being smarter on staying warm and whether you need to heat a person, a room, or a house and the best and most efficient ways to achieve this.
And for those who have time of use and off-peak electricity pricing, it makes sense to run your most energy intensive activities at the cheapest time of the day or night.
- Buying things – when they are on sale
Inflation has not hit all goods and services, and it’s still relatively easy to find certain items at discounts of up to 50% as part of regular or end of financial year sales. Especially in the ‘stay at home’ type sectors where many retailers have actually over ordered above and beyond what they require.
Recently, I got my kids to go through some toy catalogues to circle a few items that they were each interested in. It was the ‘annual toy sale’ catalogue where toys are significantly discounted and inflation is virtually nowhere to be seen.
So I am pleased to say that (like every year) I have officially completed my Christmas shopping 6 months early, and the kids will be experiencing ‘delayed gratification’ on those toys that they wanted.
Buying things when they are on sale is a no-brainer, but I am happy to spend here now because I know I can get a significant saving for something I know I will need to spend on.
- Paying in advance – if you get a discount
Paying for goods or services upfront if you are able to secure a discount makes sense when the value of that discount is worth more than the risk-free return of your money.
For example, if my insurer or school was to give me a discount greater than the interest rate of my home loan of 3% for paying fees or premiums a year in advance, then it makes financial sense to consider paying that cost upfront if I don’t have any other use for those funds.
On the flip side, if I was only going to get a 2% discount, then I would stick with a monthly option as long as I don’t get penalised, as my money is better off sitting in my home loan offset account saving interest.
- Government Benefits
There are many benefits that are offered by state governments which include travel concessions or vouchers to assist with the cost of living, especially if you have children.
If you have kids, make sure you access the Parent’s NSW vouchers, the Active Kids vouchers, and the Creative kids vouchers as this will add up to hundreds of dollars saved.
- Loyalty rewards programs
It seems like most major companies have some form of loyalty rewards program, so you may as well make the most of them as they can present great value and benefits.
From everyday spending, hotel stays, frequent flyers, supermarket shopping, or possibly your last Big Mac that you bought via an app, you have the opportunity to accumulate some form of reward via a loyalty program.
Putting things into perspective, my family and I recently took advantage of our ‘Hilton Diamond’ membership which I had acquired from a credit card several years ago. We secured an overnight stay at the Hilton in Sydney to see Vivid, and were upgraded to a Junior Suite as part of one of the loyalty benefits. Using the NSW Parent voucher for the majority of the cost, our accommodation cost us the grand total of only $51 for what would ordinarily cost about $650.
(Hint: anytime you book a hotel, tell them it’s for a special occasion like a wedding anniversary or birthday!)
- Price Protection Insurance tied to some Credit Cards
The idea around price protection is about giving you the ability to buy a product and then within a certain period of time (usually up to 6 months) you can claim a refund on the difference back on your card if the price of the item goes down in price.
This is great especially when you are looking to buy a new item (like a new phone outright) and you know the price of this will fall after a few months but you can’t wait to get it. It also just serves as a great way to provide you a bit of ‘insurance’ if you weren’t able to find the best deal at the time and the item then goes on sale.
- Savings websites
There are many websites that actively promote a culture of finding bargains or buying vouchers at a discount. My guilty pleasure is one website that I will visit at least 5 times a day is https://www.ozbargain.com.au/deals.
It represents a community of people who actively post bargains available in store or online, and it’s a great way to find bargain on absolutely everything and savings on items up to 50% or more.
- Cashback websites
Buying goods or services online is a given these days and an easy way to take this a step further is to utilise the services of cashback websites such as www.cashrewards.com.au or www.shopback.com.au.
They can provide you with significant savings on your online purchases from many retail websites in the form of cashbacks that are paid directly to your bank account.
For example, my personal cashback totals on both websites are a combined $4,155.33 on my purchases since I joined them both.
To wrap up, it’s become more important now than it has ever been to put on our smart consumer hat and be more conscious of how we spend our money.
It’s not about being frugal or miserly, or depriving yourself or your family of your lifestyle, it is about rewarding yourself and making the use of every dollar you earn.
So go out there and find some savings, and when you do, give yourself a virtual high five because your future self will thank you for it.