In case you haven’t noticed, regular New Zealanders are currently dealing with what some have called a cost-of-living crisis, as prices are being driven up for all kinds of common goods and services.
To help keep more funds in your back pocket, here are 15 ways you can save on household expenses.
1. Cancel unused memberships and subscriptions
If you’re on the fence about any of your memberships and subscriptions, or find that you’re not using them very often, cancel them. You can always renew the membership later if it turns out that you miss it.
Don’t know where to start? Just trawl through your bank account and credit card transactions and find the recurring costs which can be eliminated. Many subscriptions you might not think much of can rapidly add up, possibly including:
• Magazines and other hard copy publications. Most can be read online now anyway
• Streaming networks. Do you really need Lightbox, Amazon Prime, Disney, and Netflix?
• Sky TV. This is one of the most expensive commonplace subscriptions in NZ
2. Do a tax return
This might be the most satisfying form of savings, getting some tax back!
Filing a tax return is a lot easier and quicker than you might think – the IRD let you do it online through the MyIR portal – and most Kiwis are in straightforward enough financial situations that they can file a return without the assistance of an accountant.
Some things that you may not have considered are tax deductible can reduce your overall tax bill, which means you could get a tax refund. This includes:
• Donations to charity
• Many payments to tax advisers or accountants
• Some payments made to financial advisers
• Premiums for most income protection insurance policies
• If you work from home, you can claim a portion of the household expenses, e.g. rates, power, rent or mortgage interest, water, home insurance, cleaning, and so on
• Interest, if you have borrowed to invest
• Business deductions, if you run a small business or even a side-hustle, Airbnb, or even if you just rent a spare room or sleepout
3. Turn off the lights
Keeping the lights on in your home may not be expensive on a per-watt basis, but it sure does cost money over time. To save as much as you can, turn off lights any time you leave your house – or even when you leave the room. Turning off lights when you have plenty of natural sunlight can also help keep your electric bill down over time.
4. Cancel credit cards, and BNPL schemes
Credit cards can be a drain on your finances, especially if you’re not keeping them repaid during the interest-free period most cards offer.
Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) apps including Afterpay and LayBuy should also be avoided or cancelled. These apps rely on continuous consumer spending and add another complication to keeping your money under control. If you really want it, saving up for it and paying in cash is fast becoming the new normal.
5. Reduce contents insurance
Content insurance can be costly if you don’t own much of value. Do a quick audit of everything you own and see what it might cost to replace: there’s no point in paying for $100,000 of contents insurance if your personal effects are worth far less!
6. Switch power companies
Electricity is a commodity of sorts: there’s hardly any difference between the electricity we get from one provider or another.
That means it’s usually best to find the cheapest, and a variety of NZ comparison websites have popped up to help you determine just that:
Phone plans can get expensive, especially if you’re paying for data or minutes you don’t use. Have a quick search online and see if a better deal is available, in some cases SIM-only phone plans are now far more cost effective than other bundled deals.
8. Cut transportation costs
Along with taxes, housing, and food, transportation is one of the costliest regular items for any person or family.
With petrol at all-time highs and showing no signs of dropping any time soon, anything you can do to cut back on transport costs can make a large difference. This might include:
• Take more public transport
• Avoid making multiple trips from home in one day. For example, if you need to go to the supermarket try to incorporate this in your other travel for the day.
• If possible, work more from home
• Downsizing your vehicle to a more economical model, or even an Electric Vehicle (EV) if you can. This might free-up a sum of cash too!
• Cycle or walk more
• Change your pastimes to spend more time closer to home, cutting both travel time and costs
• Make regular savings on gas by shopping around and using discount schemes
• Keep your car well-maintained. A well-maintained vehicle is usually one that runs efficiently!
Avoid temptation by unsubscribing from marketing emails and texts from stores where you spend the most money.
10. Use vouchers or store credit
Have you got unused or partially used vouchers just lying around? Perhaps you’ve got an unused in-store credit or some air-points?
11. Weatherproof your home
With the approach of winter, what better time to plug holes and cracks that let warm air escape.
You should be able to get materials and possibly advice about this from your local hardware store about inexpensively stopping unwanted heat loss. A little time spent researching this online might go a long way to save on your winter heating bills.
12. Cut back on dining out, including coffees
At risk of sounding like a cliché parent giving tips to a young adult, the cost of those iced lattes really does add up! Consider:
$7 a day for 365 days a year = $2,555
If there’s two of you = $5,110!
A few less dinners out and lattes can make a major difference to your overall financial position. This includes packing a lunch to take to work rather than ducking out for a meal.
13. Use energy efficient bulbs
Energy-efficient light bulbs might cost a bit more initially, but they have a much longer life than normal incandescent bulbs and use far less electricity. It might be hard to decide which type to use, but any type of efficient bulb will probably be an upgrade if you’re not already using them.
14. Minimise or quit your vices, e.g., alcohol, smoking, gambling
Bad habits cost! The heavy taxes on these areas are an added incentive to kick the habit, once and for all.
Giving up a bad habit such as gambling can also save on other indirect costs too. For instance, if you quit going to the casino - you probably won’t spend so much on drinks, parking or transport, and meals out.
15. Save on groceries
Food is one of the “big four” costs that dominate most family budgets.
A quick Google search will show you hundreds of ways to cut back in this area, which should include:
• Meal planning
• Sticking to your shopping list (“click and collect” or similar can be useful for this)
• Only eat in-season fruit and vegetables
• Buy generic brands
• Buy on special, or “reduced to clear”
• Avoid pre-packaged, pre-cut, or pre-prepared meals. The markup on these isn’t usually worth the cost, unless your particularly time-poor
• Eat everything you buy, use your freezer and watch the shelf life. Sadly, a large amount of groceries are still regularly thrown out!
• Eat your leftovers
• Stick to your budget
• Leave the kids at home – they can be persuasive when it comes to adding an extra impulse item or two to the trolley!
• Explore weekend markets, sometimes they’re a great source of fresh fruit and vegetables
• Shop around supermarkets. Your supermarket isn’t loyal to you, so there’s no need to religiously stick with one supermarket brand or location – find the most cost effective instead
• Join loyalty programs. The rewards do add up
Beware, cutting the following expenses could cost you
Trimming household costs can be a great financial move, though there are several areas you should be very wary of cutting back, this might include:
• Continued education or development. This sort of expense is usually a great long-term move, if this is done in a logical way it should bolster your future earning power!
• Reducing or changing personal insurance policies including life, health, income protection, and similar covers. Shopping around for a cheaper policy is an approach advocated by many financial gurus, however, when it comes to most insurance policies cheaper isn’t always better. In fact, by changing policies you may create significant issues for yourself, as a new policy won’t usually cover you for any conditions you developed since taking out your current policy. Naturally, your current policy will nearly always cover you for health conditions which have arisen since you took it out.
• Cutting back investment contributions, including KiwiSaver. This might sound like a great idea to increase cashflow, though of course is just robbing your “future self” so should probably be a last resort! In fact, we recently noted that billionaires are investing more than ever!
Overall, always remember that you can’t save yourself wealthy. You’ll need to invest to achieve that, so we usually encourage investing and growing income as the best ways to get ahead over the long-haul.
So, if you can combine wise budget habits with growing your income and investing, then you’ll be on a winning financial path!
The bottom line: how to save on household expenses
Times are tough for many NZ families, which means now is a good a time a ever to be tough with your household expenses and find ways to reduce living costs.