Are your pockets jingling with a bit more spare change than you would usually have at this time of year?
You’re not alone – Australian household savings are $204 billion higher than pre-pandemic. Two years of lockdowns meant there were fewer chances to splurge on drinks and dining or go jet-setting abroad.
And Australians are keen to keep the savings going, with a survey released this week by the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia showing 36 per cent of Australians chose ‘make more money / chase financial freedom’ as a New Year’s resolution.
1. Give yourself – and your money – a fresh start
“If you’ve overspent during the run into Christmas, don’t hold on to any negativity, and start the year with a clean slate,” Montara Wealth director David Hancock said.
He said if you hold previous overspending against yourself, the negativity will just compound – which is not the kind of compounding we want to see.
The New Year is an opportunity to start over and focus on developing good money habits going forward.
2. Always compare products
Canstar chief spokesperson Steve Mickenbecker said you should always compare financial products, such as loans or insurance, like you would compare something you buy from a shop.
“Obviously take the lower price [rather] than the higher price,” Mr Mickenbecker said.
“But be aware that you must get a product that’s a good product too.
“So if it’s a home loan you’ve got, that’s where the biggest savings can be – just make sure that you’ve got flexibility in the home loan to make extra repayments.”
3. Set money goals
Mr Hancock said you should set “realistic” personal and financial goals – but don’t be too strict on your spending.
“It’s not going to be feasible that you’re going to eat baked beans and never go out for the whole 12 months,” he said.
“If it’s something that’s too unrealistic, at some point you’ll fail and then it’ll become a negative thing, and you’ll just give it up.”
He said you should set some money aside for recreational spending to reward yourself when you reach milestones that you’ve set out to achieve.
4. Break down goals into milestones
Rather than chasing one huge goal, breaking it down could make the process less daunting, and give you a more frequent sense of your achievements.
“Focus on monthly instead of yearly, or weekly instead of monthly,’ Mr Hancock said.
5. Stop thinking about your savings as your money
If you have a savings goal, such as paying off a home loan or saving up for a car, set aside extra money in your savings account and keep your hands off.
Mr Mickenbecker said you should set up a direct debit from your everyday account into your savings account. It often makes sense to automate this payment on the day (or day after) you receive your salary.
“It doesn’t matter what the goal is, the issue is just putting the money aside and [thinking about it as], ‘It’s not my money, it’s my saving’s money’,” he said.
6. Don’t forget to treat yourself
Set some rewards to give yourself when you reach particular milestones. These could be clothes, furniture or even a holiday, Mr Hancock said.
“Life is about enjoyment as well,” he said.
“So if it’s all about saving money, it misses the point.
“But if you are managing to stick to what you set out at the start the year, then make sure that there are some things in [your plan so] that so you’ll be able to reward yourself for that achievement.”
7. Step up your budget game
Mr Mickenbecker said you should set up your budget to pay off any debt leftover from 2021 as fast as possible.
After paying for your essentials, like your rent and mandatory loan repayments, allocate leftover money to paying off your debt faster, he said.
“Whether it’s another $50 or $100 every pay, it’s amazing how fast an extra payment knocks your loan down,” he said.
“It’s liberating when you’ve got a debt, to actually get it down to zero.”
Mr Hancock said people are also usually good at managing weekly and monthly expenses, but often get into trouble with irregular spending such as presents or holidays.
Rather than relying on credit cards or convenient but largely unregulated buy now pay later (BNPL) services, you should put money aside for unexpected expenditures.
“Complete a thorough budget and put money aside each week or each month for the less frequent expenditure,” he said.
8. Stop accumulating unnecessary debt
Mr Mickenbecker said unless you can pay off your debt in full every month, leave your credit card at home and stay away from BNPL services, except in emergencies.
According to a NAB Economics report released in June, almost one in five Australians have BNPL debt, and nearly four in 10 people with a BNPL debt have missed a payment.
“In the old cash days, you were limited by the amount of dollars in your pocket,” Mr Mickenbecker said.
“And that was money you actually owned.
“Since credit cards came in it’s very easy to spend someone else’s money, and the same goes for buy now pay later.”
9. Seek advice
Mr Hancock said although financial advice will come at a cost, good financial advisers should pay for themselves.
“If you know managing money and building wealth is not your personal strength, then speak to an expert who can help you to develop a bespoke financial strategy,” he said.