finance

Seven realistic money tweaks you can make right now to pocket more cash in 2018.

Many of us are guilty of voicing our New Years’ resolutions with little or no intention of actually making them happen.

In theory, we’d all like to have more time with the family, focus on our careers and be more savvy with money, but how are you actually going to make that happen this year?

Inflated costs for childcare, groceries and other household items can make managing your household budget a challenge, which is why it’s important to seek out money-saving opportunities.

From scoring a better deal on your home loan, to being more conscious of your energy usage, to paying your health insurance premiums upfront, there are a few good money hacks that can help you bring in the savings in 2018.

Refinance your financial products.

Reviewing your home loan every few years is something that every mortgage holder should do. The money you could save from paying less interest can be substantial over the life of a 30-year loan.

For example, if you had a $350,000 home loan and you were paying the average standard variable rate of 5.08 per cent p.a. and you then managed to get a rate discount of 0.5 per cent, you’d save over $1272 per year.

While the prospect of refinancing may be unsettling, it’s a little bit of effort for a large potential financial gain. Strike up the conversation with your bank and ask for a better rate. Chances are that they’ll grant you a rate discount on the spot.

Image: Unsplash/RawPixel.
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Rent out a spare bedroom.

Putting unused space to use is a good way to pocket some extra cash throughout the year. Simply create an account on a listing site such as Airbnb or Stayz, take some photos of the room and decide on your asking price.

A finder.com.au analysis of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that renting out a room could provide you with an extra $800 per month. If you rented out a room for half of the year, this could provide you with an additional $4800 that you otherwise wouldn’t have.

Sell your vehicle.

If you don’t use your car very often, why not put it on the market? Sites like Sell My Car allow you to enter your car’s details in order to estimate its resale value. For example, for a 2004 Toyota Echo, you could expect a resale value of around $2000. Selling your car will also mean that you’ll save a lot on costs like registration, road tolls and parking.

Of course, the value you are quoted is based on a few assumptions, including that your car has 12 months of registration, is roadworthy and hasn’t been subjected to a write-off. Take the quote with a grain of salt, but it’s a good way to get a ballpark figure of what your car might be worth.

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Be more conscious of your energy usage.

Being smart about your energy usage around the house is a good way to shrink your bills. According to a finder.com.au survey of 2017 respondents, almost a quarter of Australians (23 per cent) leave their air conditioning running when they’re not at home. This is a huge money waster.

The research found that these Australians waste an average of 4.1 hours worth of energy a day, which works out to be around $1.3 billion of wasted energy over the three months of summer. It’s estimated that cutting down on air conditioning by just half an hour per day could save your household up to $72 over the three months of summer.

Pay your health insurance premiums upfront.

Getting in early and paying your health insurance premiums for the year ahead can actually help you save. On 1 April, health insurance premiums are expected to rise by 4 per cent, but paying your premium upfront before this date means that you can avoid this price hike.

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On average, the annual health insurance premium in Australia is expected to rise by around $136, so get in early and dodge this cost before it’s too late.

Send money abroad with a specialist provider.

If you need to send money overseas, it may be tempting to use your existing bank. Sure, you already have an account and it may seem much easier, but sending money overseas with your bank may not be the most cost-effective option.

A finder.com.au study last year found that it costs around five times more in online fees to transfer funds with a bank than it does with a specialist provider. That means you could save an average of $17 per transfer if you opt for a specialist transfer company instead. If you’re sending money abroad several times throughout the year, this means you could save over $102 in fees alone.

Get the best price for petrol.

Using apps like FuelCheck or MyNRMA can help you trim your petrol bill by locating the stations in your area with the cheapest petrol price. The average vehicle used 1358 litres of petrol in 2016, so a saving of 19 cents per refuel could mean a saving of $258 per year.

Here's a handy table so you can visualise how this would all play out.

Image: Finder.

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