Practical ways to save money

Saving money doesn’t always mean having less fun or drastically changing your lifestyle. By trying out a few simple tips, you can save money painlessly.

This article will cover:

  • The Money Hacks Challenge: Spend Less

  • Tips on how to save money on food

  • Tips on how to save money on living expenses

  • Tips on how to save money on entertainment and your ‘wants’

  • Talking to your friends and family about money

The Money Hacks Challenge: Spend Less

We put three young people to the test, to see if they could spend less on their bills, food and social life with a few small changes. Special thanks to Glen James of My Millennial Money, who gave us some budgeting tips.

Read the transcript here.

By simply changing providers, I can save over $120 throughout the year. Doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up.

Tips on how to save money on food

Save money on groceries

Shopping for groceries … What used to be fun for many of us as kids can now be a stressful chore. Here are some tips on how to save money when grocery shopping:

  • Make a list of what you need to buy and avoid shopping for groceries when you’re hungry.

  • Buy items that are on sale – the quality difference between brands is often quite small.

  • Unbranded items are often just as good as branded items, but cheaper.

  • Some supermarkets sell ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables, for a much cheaper price. The quality is exactly the same as regular produce – they are usually just slightly misshapen or are inconsistent in size. What’s in season also tends to be cheaper than what’s not.

  • Meat and produce that’s close to its ‘use by’ date is often discounted for quick sale.

  • Check the cost per volume/unit when comparing prices, to get around ‘shrinkflation’. This is when the price of an item seems to be the same as before, but it’s slightly smaller in an almost unnoticeable way.

Bonus: Sign up for free store loyalty accounts. You get points for your purchases and can then trade those points for discounts or items.

Learn how to cook

Cooking at home can be a great way to cut down on your food costs. Here are some useful tips:

  • Use Supercook to find recipes that use what you already have in the fridge and pantry.

  • Find recipes for things you love to eat and learn how to make them. Check out Budget Bytes for cheap meal ideas.

  • Ask your friends and family to share any favourite recipes.

  • Embrace having ‘boring’ work/school lunches. You’ll be surprised how much you save by providing your own lunch and snacks.

  • Prepare your lunches or dinners in advance, in a larger batch. This can save time and help take the decision making out of your daily meals. Learn more about how to meal prep here.

Figure out your food habits

There might be some things you’re doing out of habit that are costing you more than you realise. Here are some tips for changing your food habits:

  • Do grocery shopping only once or twice a week, with a shopping list and when you’re not hungry. You’ll be less likely to buy things on impulse that you don’t need, such as extra snacks.

  • Once a week, check what’s in the fridge/pantry that’s about to pass its ‘use by’ date or go bad, and use it up in the next few days.

  • Freeze leftovers if you’re unlikely to finish them. You’ll then have a quick meal sorted in the future and will minimise wastage.

Save money on eating out

Saving money doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat out. Figure out how often you might want to have a meal out – say, once a fortnight or only when catching up with friends. Here are some ways to save when you do eat out:

Bonus: If you don’t finish your meal, ask for a takeaway container and take the leftovers home. That’s tomorrow’s lunch sorted!

Save money on takeaways

We get it: sometimes when you’re sick or you’ve had a rough day, cooking can just be a hassle and you want to order takeaway. Here are some tips for indulging without it hurting your wallet too much:

  • Compare prices on different delivery apps, as menu items and delivery fees can differ.

  • Order directly with your local restaurant. This can be cheaper than using a delivery app, and it supports local businesses.

  • Pick up your meal yourself. You’ll save on delivery fees, and if it’s close enough to walk, getting outside and moving can help to improve your mood.

Tips on how to save money on living expenses

Save money on bills

Call up your internet/electricity/water/phone providers and ask what discounts they can offer. You can also save money with internet/phone bundles, or by changing providers and making the most of sign-up offers.

If you have a concession card, you can link it to your energy provider and potentially get around 15–17 per cent off each bill.

Bonus: To save even more, turn off lights, taps and appliances at the wall when they’re not in use.

Save money on insurance

If you’re paying for something you barely use, do you really need it? Reassess your health/car insurance and compare different funds.

Bonus: If you feel like you don’t need it, you can also opt out of the insurance that your superannuation automatically signs you up for (sneaky, right?).

Save money on travel

The cost of travelling to work and school, and to spend time on hobbies or seeing friends and family, can really add up.

  • If you have flexible working hours or can choose when your classes are, try to travel during off-peak hours to get cheaper public transport fees.

  • Work or study from home when possible. You might need to figure out what frequency works for you. Some people really thrive and recharge from being around others, so the extra cost of travelling during peak times might be worth it for them.

  • If you drive, use petrol comparison apps to see where the cheaper petrol stations are located near you and along your route. Find a petrol comparison app here.

Tips on how to save money on entertainment and your ‘wants’

Financial ‘wants’ are things that aren’t essential to your physical/mental wellbeing and job security. These are different for everyone and can include regular beauty appointments, new clothes and eating out. Learn more about financial needs and wants here.

Ongoing bills and living expenses can really add up, but saving money shouldn’t mean that you don’t get to do anything you enjoy. We’ve put together some ways that you can still enjoy life while also saving money.

Save money on subscriptions

Look at the different streaming services, paid shopping memberships and paid productivity accounts that you’re subscribed to. You might find that you’re paying for something you don’t actually need. You could subscribe to only one streaming service at a time, share it with a family member, or ditch it altogether and use free-to-air TV sites or YouTube. If you’re paying for a productivity account for work or school, remember to submit it as a deduction on your tax return.

If you’re not using your gym membership as much as you’d like, you could switch to a per-visit membership, find a cheaper gym, or use free online workouts and get sweaty at home or in the park.

Save money on things to do

Looking after yourself doesn't have to be pricey … We've got some creative ways to chill for cheap.

  • Find free or low-cost events at local museums, art galleries and live music venues.

  • Get outside in nature for free things to do, such as walks, hikes and swims at the beach.

  • Get discounted same-day music and theatre tickets on TodayTix.

  • Visit venues that have student or under-30 discounts.

  • Join your local library to get free access to books, ebooks and audiobooks.

  • Find places that offer free treats on your birthday!

Get more ways to chill for cheap here.

Save money on goods and products

The cost of consumables that help us to enjoy life, such as nice clothing, books and games, can quickly add up. Here are some ways to save:

  • Wait for sales for things that aren’t urgent. This also gives you the chance to pause and consider whether you really need something.

  • Set a rule for yourself to wait X amount of time before buying anything over X value. For example, you could wait one month before buying anything over $100, so you can make sure you really need it.

  • Use what you already own, such as clothes and games. Maybe you have unread books or clothes in perfect condition that you've only worn once or twice.

  • Borrow or trade things that you want. Try out Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree, where you can also sell things you no longer need.

Tip: Just because something is on sale, it doesn’t mean you need to buy it! If something that costs $100 is on sale for $60, it’s easy to think that you’re missing out on saving $40. Reframe your thinking – you’re spending $60.

Make your money work for you

Sometimes, a small change can feel like a big difference when it comes to increasing your long-term savings or reducing your living expenses.

  • If you have money sitting in a transaction account, switch it to a high-interest savings account.

  • Use cashback apps such as ShopBack, Cashrewards and Honey, which give you a percentage of your purchase amount back. You can sometimes even get cash back on essentials like groceries and petrol.

Budgeting hacks from other young people

Read the transcript.

Talking to your friends and family about money

It might be awkward, but starting a conversation with your friends and family about money can be a good way to share your savings goals and get support if you need it. It’s very likely that many of your friends and family are also feeling the pressure of money worries, so it’s a chance to share your thoughts and to support each other.

You could start the conversation by sharing your budgeting goals and by admitting that going out is getting a bit expensive for you. Here are some suggestions you could share:

  • Limit eating out to an agreed frequency, such as every third hangout.

  • Hang out at someone’s home, with everyone bringing a home-made dish to share.

  • Choose online gaming, working out and playing board games as fun ways to hang out without spending too much money.

  • Avoid breaking the bank while also having a good time by being in nature, going for walks together, and doing other things that don’t cost anything.

Learn more about talking to someone you trust.

What can I do now?

  • Watch episode two of Money Hacks: Earn More.

  • Check out our article on managing financial stress here.

  • Read our starter guide to personal finances and managing your money here.