Paying attention to your finances and making a few simple phone calls could save you more money than you’d think.
Petra Churcher, general manager at financial advisory firm IPAC, estimates contacting your bank, insurer or mobile phone provider to discuss the best deal for your circumstances could add up to thousands of dollars in extra cash for you each year.
“You could save yourself hundreds of dollars a month sometimes,” she says.
“In some cases, you’d be saving a few thousand a year if you paid more attention.”
Some 54 per cent of Australians don’t even know how much money is in their bank account, let alone how much essential services and insurance is costing them, according to Ms Churcher.
With that in mind, here are eight phone calls you can make to start saving.
The dreaded quarterly electricity or gas bill could be a lot cheaper if you make sure you’re on the right plan for your energy needs.
• Call your provider to check if you’re eligible for rebates or special deals. It’s also worth inquiring about flexible payment options, discounts for paying on time or for the plan that best suits your energy usage.
If you’re committed to a 24-month plan that’s not right for you, don’t despair.
You might be able to upgrade your handset before the expiry of your contract, or it even may be cheaper to pay an exit fee to jump across to a cheaper deal.
It also pays to make sure you understand your plan.
“People can get $600 bills and not understand why,” says Ms Churcher.
“Call your telco and make sure you’re on a deal that works for you.”
• Visit a phone comparison website like Whistle Out to check how your existing plan rates against others.
• Call your telco. You might be surprised at what deals they can offer you.
Given the rapid pace of chance in the technology space, it’s a good idea to ensure that your internet plan, and the rate you’re paying, are up-to-date and competitive.
• Check Whistle Out to find out how your existing internet plan compares against alternatives.
• Call your internet provider and see if you can pay less for more.
Bank fees and credit cards
This is a key area where you can save a lot of money.
Banks don’t want to lose their customers, so be bold and ask them about what they can do for you.
• Call your bank and ask what options are available to reduce your fees.
• Change to a zero interest credit card for six months to avoid paying high interest rates.
This is an area where you can save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars, especially if you look at home and contents, car, health and life insurance as well as income protection.
However, it’s not a good idea to get over-zealous when cutting back on your coverage.
“I’ve seen lots of people take cheapest option,” says Ms Churcher.
“In the long run, it has cost them because they didn’t pick up the trade off.
“A good example was the Brisbane floods, because they had picked the cheap options rather than looking at what cover they’d lost.”
• There are plenty of insurance comparison websites around, so do a quick internet search to find out how your existing provider stacks up against competitors.
• Find out if you can obtain a cheaper rate by packaging several different types of insurance – say, for example, your home and contents and your car insurance – with the same provider.
• Call your insurance provider and ask for options for a better rate.
A surprising number of people have direct debits that they don’t need coming out their bank accounts.
“People might have stopped going to the gym, but still have their membership [fees] coming out years later,” says Ms Churcher.
• Check your bank account for all direct debits.
• Call any and all of the services you no longer need that are still taking your money.
Many people, particuarly pensioners, don’t realise all the benefits they can access.
• Pick up the phone and ask Centrelink about your entitlements.
Don’t pick up
Last year, Australians lost $1 billion to scammers.
Ms Churcher says that she’s seeing a growing number of people falling prey to fraudsters.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, no matter how professional these websites look,” she says.
• Put the phone down. This is one phone call that will cost you money.