Most household budgets have holes that suck up hard-earned cash.
But it can sometimes be hard to spot the weak spots in your own finances.
Nevertheless, finding out how, and where, your money is being wasted is an essential part of effective financial management.
Utilities have gone up a lot, and that’s had a big impact on families; the rising price of gas, electricity and water, but there are other things where people go out of control
David Strybosch, principal at MyLife Financial Planning, says that there are a few common areas where weekly costs always surprise clients.
No matter how much you scrimp and save on the big things, it’s often the little things that make your budget come undone, he adds.
“Utilities have gone up a lot, and that’s had a big impact on families; the rising price of gas, electricity and water, but there are other things where people go out of control.”
With that in mind, here are the eight holes in your household budget that you should think about plugging:
ATM charges (and other bank fees)
Bosco Tan, co-founder of personal budgeting app Pocketbook, says that the biggest surprise people get is realising how much they spend on ATM fees.
“Bank fees cost, on average, about $1 per day, with about 50 per cent of that in account keeping fees, but about to 25 per cent a day is on ATM fees.”
Mr Tan advises people to use their own bank’s ATMs to save on fees – and, if they have time, to try to negotiate the best deal on other bank fees and interest rates.
Ever received an incorrect bill? Mr Tan warns that it can happen more often than you realise.
Keep track of how much you spend, so you know if your bill is much more expensive without a change in how much you’ve used that utility/phone/internet.
Credit card debt
It can be easy to forget how expensive credit card debt can be.
MyLife’s Mr Strybosch recommends reserving your credit card for emergencies.
If you’re using your credit card to pay bills, it’s a good idea if it’s cleared monthly, he adds.
“You should never pay interest on a credit card,” Mr Strybosch says.
“Any debt that isn’t tax deductable you need to be clearing as quickly as is possible.”
Remember that magazine subscription you used to have? You’ll want to make sure that you aren’t still paying for it.
Pocketbook’s Mr Tan warns that many Australians have old subscriptions to things like magazines, newspapers and gymnasiums that they’re still paying for without even realising.
Mr Tan can’t put a figure on how much you’ll save by eating in instead of eating out, but suffice it to say it’s enough to add some wiggle room back into the household budget.
Try starting small. Instead of spending $10-15 a day on lunch at work, try bringing something to eat from home. You’ll easily save 50 per cent on the total cost of your midday meal.
Coffee and a treat
We aren’t going to suggest you give up coffee. That would be outrageous.
However, if you buy a coffee every day, and perhaps sneak in a treat or four a week, the costs quickly add up.
“It’s amazing how many people don’t realise what they spend on takeaway, going out to buy a coffee or a little muffin through the day – these things add up,” Mr Strybosch says.
He recommends writing down everything you spend for a week to get a handle on how much it costs you.
It’s worth a note that if you cut back two $4 coffees a week, that’s a spare $208 a year.
Phone and internet
You’ve got a mobile phone, a home phone and internet access, but do you really get the best deal?
Mr Strybosch says that many people are spending too much on separate deals.
Instead, look for cheaper telcos and good deals for bundled bills.
If you want to chat to those friends overseas used VOIP technology (like Whatsap or Viber) instead.
Gifts for other people put an unexpected hole in any budget.
This is especially the case if you have children and a seemingly endless stream of friends’ birthday parties.
Rather than spending $20-30 a pop, Mr Strybosch recommends looking for “the little things that can look good, but are a lot cheaper”.
Disclosure: Financial Planning services provided by MyLife (Aust) Pty Ltd t/a MyLife Financial Planning as a Corporate Authorised Representative of Infocus Securities Australia Pty Ltd ABN 47 097 797 049 Australian Credit Licence and AFSL No. 236523