Money Saving Tips

Balancing your Budget for a Stress Free life!

For those of you who remember your Charles Dickens from High School, there is a quote from Mr Micawber in David Copperfield which pretty well sums up how to balance your family budget: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen shillings and sixpence, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and sixpence, result misery."

In other words, don't be tempted to spend more than you earn because it doesn't take much in the way of temptation to make a big difference to your bank balance

Piggy Bank With Discount Coupons

In the 2012 Cost of Living Survey which looks at the most expensive cities in the world to live in, Sydney featured at number 11, London at number 25, and New York at 33. New Zealand fared well with Auckland appearing at number 56 on the list and Wellington coming in at a very respectable 74. Despite the favourable comparisons with other leading capital cities, a day out with the family isn't cheap with a Big Mac at $5, a flat-white at $4 and a movie ticket costing an average of $15. Entertaining yourself at home is an option but with a 40" LCD TV priced from $450 - $700 and a washing machine for cleaning all that rugby kit costing from $600 -$1,100 nothing is cheap!

Watching the Dollars and Cents

As we pass through mid-winter, the swimmers at Bay of Many Coves in Picton are enjoying their annual sea-dip and the Queenstown Ski area is opening to near perfect conditions, but spare a thought for the poor souls in Wellington who are enduring their fourth day without power following the catastrophic storms of the last week (June 2013) and the residents of Christchurch who are bracing themselves for the Kings Tides forecast to reach them from the Canterbury area. No doubt they will be looking for as many money saving tips as they can as they face returning to battered homes and damaged property. Whatever the situation we could all use some handy hints to help us through the rest of the winter until the spring returns with better weather and, hopefully, an improved economic outlook!

Let's start by looking at the biggest purchase any of us will probably ever make; our home and the mortgage we use to finance it. If you are one of the 80% who have a fixed rate mortgage for a term from 6 months to 5 years, you may well have been missing out due to the current fall in interest rates. Particularly if you pay 9% on your mortgage and are receiving only 4% (less taxes) on your savings it may be very beneficial to enquire if your bank will allow a partial repayment without incurring break-free charges.

If you are lucky enough to receive a windfall from an inheritance or from the sale of a second car, for example, use it to make a one-off lump sum repayment on your mortgage to save you interest in the long run. However, if you weren't fortunate enough to have been a beneficiary in Great Aunt Gloria's Last Will and Testament you could still begin keeping a coin jar to collect all your unused small change. Even at $20 per month it will soon add up and make a difference to what you owe.

Don't be afraid to shop around and change your mortgage provider either. The banks are just as anxious for new business as anybody else and you may well be able to negotiate yourself a better deal than you are currently paying.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff!

It may be a staple we use every day, but did you know that you could halve your milk bill by switching from bottled orange, yellow, blue and green top milk to powdered? Currently costing $7.19 for a 1kg pack (makes 10 litres) it contains all the nutrients and vitamins of whole milk for a fraction of the cost.

When buying cheese for the family always choose a 1kg block as this will work out to be cheaper; cut off half and grate it into small bags for the freezer to be used later for sandwiches and cooking.

Talking of making good use of your freezer, don't just use it for storing expensive, shop bought pre-made ready meals; you will find beets, broccoli, carrots, peas and broad beans, collard greens and sprouts all plentiful in the shops at this time of year. Buy in bulk now and freeze ahead for later when the prices will begin to rise again.

If you have babies and toddlers in the house try freezing grapes and mandarin segments as a little natural treat instead of expensive sugar laden lollies from the supermarket.

Also, if you have gone a little overboard with your veggie buying and they have started to look a little tired and wilted, try trimming the stalk end a little and reviving them in a bowl of warm water for an hour. They will soon perk up and become firm and full of freshness again.

It's Just Common Sense!

Piggy in London

If you and your family are avid readers, don't be afraid to make use of charity shops, garage sales or the local refuse centre. You may not get the latest Keri Hulme or Lloyd Jones but you can get some great bargains for 10 - 20 cents instead of 20 - 40 dollars.

It may be an old standby, but for the romantics among you who like to charm your loved one by candlelight, or, on a more serious note for those in earthquake areas who keep an emergency pack ready at all times, storing your candles in the freezer will give you a longer and cleaner burn.

While we have romance in the air, instead of paying for expensive solid air fresheners or aerosols, try putting a drop or two of scented oil on a light bulb and enjoy the fragrance as the lights go on!

From the sublime to the ridiculous; dried, used tea bags make excellent firelights for an open fire and will give off a yummy scent. Get those pots boiling!

Computer users may like to know that they can prolong the life of their printer ink cartridges by switching the computer off when not in use. Leaving it powered up all the time will make your ink dry up.

To save money on phone calls, try downloading Skype which is available free of charge. Skype to Skype calls will cost nothing and even overseas calls to landlines will only cost a few cents. As they say, what's not to like?