Finance Your Budget Coronavirus inspires Australians to adopt eco-friendly savings habits
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Coronavirus inspires Australians to adopt eco-friendly savings habits

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Taking the time to be more eco-friendly can not only boost your environmental credentials, but your savings, too. Photo: TND
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More than four in five Australians have committed to lifestyle changes in lockdown that not only boosted their eco-consciousness, but enabled their savings to blossom.

According to Gateway Bank’s survey of more than 1000 Australians, 85 per cent of Australians adopted at least one new habit to reduce their environmental footprint, as the economic toll of the pandemic weighed on households.

More than half of Australians (53 per cent) reduced their energy usage, while nearly the same number slashed the amount of food scraps that entered their garbage (52 per cent).

In addition, 38 per cent undertook a DIY home renovation, and a quarter snubbed their tailor to mend their clothes.

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The coronavirus lockdown allowed one Sydney-based photographer to start making a move to self-sustainability. Photo: Jim Barker

When asked of their motivations, two-thirds said it was purely to save.

Gateway Bank CEO Lexi Airey said the pandemic, which has now seen the number of unemployed Australians jump to nearly one million, has forced households to radically overhaul their spending behaviour.

“Australians are inherently resourceful and are using their time during the lockdown to acquire new skills that can help them save money for the future,” Ms Airey said.

“It can be exceptionally difficult to increase savings in an environment where many people have declining incomes. However, taking the time to implement good saving fundamentals is likely to lead to good financial habits as the recovery gets under way.”

Growing vegetables slashes hundreds off grocery bills

Gateway Bank’s research also found more than a third of Australians (34 per cent) started growing vegetables in their backyard.

Sydney-based commercial and music photographer Jim Barker is one of those people.

After experiencing a career-best month in February, he is one of more than 1.6 million Australians on JobSeeker, when his income was wiped out days after the Wine Machine music festival in the Hunter Valley.

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Jim Barker and his fiancee keep a log of their crops and when they expect to flower. Photo: Jim Barker

However, he swapped the camera for the trowel in March to follow in the footsteps of effervescent Gardening Australia host Costa Georgiadis.

“Me and my fiancée learned a lot about productive gardens every Friday night, so we grabbed a bunch of timber fence pilings we found walking around our suburb (Jannali) before Christmas and built two veggie patches in our backyard,” Mr Barker told The New Daily. 

“We’ve ended up planting some Romanesco, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbages, anything out of the Brassica, spinach, kale, and some onions and other things as well.”

Although he has yet to harvest, Mr Barker said his family will eventually save between $100 to $150 on their weekly grocery bill once the plants start flowering.

Other changes – including making jams and pickles from scratch, cutting down on takeaway, reducing food wastage and removing unnecessary subscriptions – have already netted them $200 in savings per month.

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Soon, Jim Barker hopes to save upwards of $100 a week on groceries. Photo: Jim Barker

“If anything, we’ll be doubling down on these habits until work picks back up, and coming out of lockdown, every new expenditure that comes in will have to pass a new level of questioning,” Mr Barker said.

Savings habits a struggle to maintain out of lockdown

Managing editor of consumer comparison site finder.com.au Kate Browne said the lockdown forced many to critique their spending with a fine-toothed comb.

“Not only is everyone increasingly budget-conscious, but with people constantly at home, they are becoming more aware of things they may not have previously noticed such as energy, where they could nab a better deal by going green,” Ms Browne told The New Daily. 

With most states continuing to ease lockdown restrictions and workers thinking about returning to the office, the challenge is for that saving mentality to bake in, she said.

“Right now, we’re not driving our cars as much and there’s less air travel, and the lockdown has given us more time to implement practical changes,” Ms Browne said.

“But by keeping track of your spending through apps that can categorise your spending on things like retail and food, you can continue to make further inroads.”