"Secrets to Saving Money in Australia" Free Newsletter - July 2004
This issue includes:-
- Tax cheque spending spree
- Be clever, snug and warm
- Where to buy the cheapest new or used textbooks
- From last month: Too shy to ask for a discount
- Special help request: Travelling to England
- Help needed: Economical lactose free milk
- Saving story: Our new kitchen and bathroom cost $2500
- What is the Savings Vault?
How are you doing? It has been a fun month. Baby Jacqueline is goo-ing and gaa-ing, and her big brother Sam is turning into a little boy. It is wonderful being able to stay at home and play with them.
Thank you for your enthusiastic feedback (a few of your letters are included below). It makes me smile from ear to ear. Helping people is a great feeling.
"What an absolutely fabulous site. I have seen so many ideas for saving money just in a couple of days. One of the great things about the site is that you don't have to spend money to save it. The hints are also well in line with conservation. Well done!" (Marina Kanaris)
"I just wanted to say a BIG thank you to (simplesavings.com.au) because I just saved $100 on a new dishwasher. I checked out the stocktake sales on the web and found the lowest offer, which was from Good Guys down in Kawana in Queensland. We are about an hour away in Gympie, so I phoned the local Retravision and asked if they could match the price and they agreed, saving us the hassle of driving all the way down there!" (Tanya Wessels)
"After reading That's Life I couldn't wait to get on the Internet and check your site out. I am really excited to have joined such an inspirational site!" (Tracey Smith)
"Just scanning the Savings Vault I have discovered how to save a fortune on everything. In the first month I have saved about $150!" (Kylie Gray)
Have a wonderful month!
PS. If you want to save serious money join our members area the Savings Vault. It only costs $47 per year and you will get that money back many times. To join go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/order/
1. Tax cheque spending spree
Tax cheques start arriving in early August. It is the perfect opportunity to reduce your overall expenses. The Savings Vault is loaded with items you can buy to improve your finances. Here are a couple of smart ways to spend your tax cheque so that you can have a better year.
Make a plan
Before you spend any of your windfall, write a list of everything you would like to buy so you can evaluate the list and remove dud items. Put the list aside for two days and then re-read it to make sure everything in the list is going to reduce your long term overall expenses.
Paying off consumer debt and mortgages
Use the windfall to lower your repayments. A lump sum repayment on your mortgage can save you many times that amount over the life of the loan. Why should you be a slave to the bank? Free yourself. Paying off your loan early will make such a huge difference to your wallet it is like getting a pay rise.
Items that will make you money
Sometimes you need to have money to save money. So take advantage of your windfall. Only buy items that will save you money, for example, a chest freezer so you can buy bulk meat, a lawn mower so you can do it yourself, thick curtains to lower your power bill, bulk groceries at a discount, essential gifts on sale. For more details about buying in bulk check out the Savings Vault.
Stick to your budget
Just because you have a sudden tax rebate doesn't mean you should let your budget slip. Don't be lax! If you've managed without something so far, it doesn't mean that you should suddenly buy it. Even though you've earned it, an big unplanned splurge on clothes or holidays will squander the fantastic opportunity to get on top of things. If you're not careful your hard-earned tax cheque could be just money flushed down the toilet.
Stupid ways to spend your money
There are loads of things you could do that will put a strain on your relationship. Windfalls can make a bad situation worse. Avoid paying deposits on large items whose repayments will stretch the budget. Avoid new mobile phones. They are an unecessary expense. Avoid the pokies, gambling and lotteries.
Protect yourself and your budget
Before you buy or spend anything, add up the total cost. Remember that windfalls can send some people further into debt.
Send in your story
If you have any great examples or stories of smart and stupid things you can buy on a spending spree, please go to www.simplesavings.com.au/donatehints/.
2. Be clever, snug and warm
Here are a few clever ways to be nice and cosy this winter. They come from the 'House' section of the Savings Vault.
Warm change table and clothes
I warm my two-year-old daughter's clothes and change table with a hot water bottle. It doesn't really cost anything because I've already boiled the kettle to make a cuppa. Before she is ready to be changed I place a hot water bottle on her change table or bed with her clothes wrapped around it. Then, when she is ready, I whip the hot water bottle out, lay her down on the warm surface and dress her in pre-warmed clothes. This makes her happy even on really frosty mornings.
Cut down your heating bill
Our electricity bill after winter used to be quite high ($268 for two people) because the heater was used most days in winter. However, last year my husband and I reduced our winter bill by $100 with three simple steps:
1. Layering our clothing – air heats up between layers of clothing thus keeping you warm.
2. Keeping a spare blanket near the sofa to snuggle under (quite romantic).
3. Reducing heater usage – we only use it when we have guests over.
Dried citrus peel fire lighters
For all open fire fans, there’s no need to buy fire lighters. The peel from any citrus fruit, especially oranges, can be dried and used to set your kindling alight. The natural oils in the peel really spark up, and the resulting aroma is just another natural side benefit.
Economical heating in a small unit
In winter I put my clothes dryer in the kitchen of my unit where a dishwasher would go, with the vent directed to the main living area. When I wash the sheets and blankets in I put them in the dryer and I get two for one - a warm unit and dry sheets.
Flannelette sheets instead of electric blankets
This year we decided to see how long we could last during winter before we felt we needed to get out the electric blanket. Instead of putting on the electric blanket as soon as it turned cold, we put a fitted flannelette sheet on the bed and bought an inexpensive polar fleece blanket for the top layer under the doona. By doing this, we have stayed extra warm, as well as saving on the power bill.
Hot water bottle at sporting events
I used to freeze waiting for my nine-year-old daughter at events. Even if I am inside a sporting facility or church, there is no guarantee of heating. Recently I went to my daughter's after-school program - and froze. I walked up the street to the nearest discount outlet, The Reject Shop, and bought a hot water bottle for $2. I took it back down to the church and filled it up at the sink with hot water. Then I sat down snug and warm. Now I keep it under one of the seats in the car.
Saved $200 with hot-water bottles
Save on your electricity or gas bills by using hot water bottles. My husband and I enjoy reading or watching television or DVDs with two hot water bottles each and a doona, and we feel cosy and warm without having to use any other form of heating. We live in the hills, and it gets pretty cold here in winter; if it's particularly cold, we take the edge off the chill by using the reverse-cycle air-conditioner for 10 minutes. We estimate that the savings add up to at least $200 a year. In addition, I use hot water bottles instead of a fan heater when I'm using the computer. We also use hot water bottles in bed - much cheaper and safer than an electric blanket!
Storing blankets under your sheets
To keep warm in winter and save on heating costs place a spare quilt under your fitted sheet. Not only will it seem as though you're sleeping on a cloud, you will also get a lot more warmth from the quilt and save heaps on electricity costs. You can also store unused blankets and sheets under your mattress to save on space.
Stockings warm our house
I have created a way of excluding draughts from beneath doors. Cut a leg off a pair of pantyhose. Take two door sausages and roll the stocking leg over them till they fit to the toe. Tie a knot in the end. Then spread the sausages apart and feed them under the door; it will look like you have a door sausage on both sides of the door.
Heavy curtains = warm house
Save money in winter with heavy curtains - most heat escapes out the windows. The best results are achieved by creating a pocket of air between the curtain and the window by enclosing the top of the curtain with a box pelmet.
Wood for your heater from joinery for free
We have a wood heater and these days finding the time to go wood carting is becoming impossible. A delivered load of wood costs approximately $200, although the cost of doing it yourself is much cheaper (about $50 - fuel chains etc.). However, we have found something that costs next to nothing.
If there is a joinery in your area, contact them. We did, and left our trailer with them. Four days later (depending on their workload) we had a full load of timber offcuts for the cost of fuel towing our trailer there and back home again. This also saves the joinery money, as they don't need to pay to empty their dumpster as often.
It is an ideal solution for older people as they don't have to cut the wood, and if mixed with larger logs the wood goes further and saves time and money.
3. Where to buy the cheapest new or used textbooks
Textbooks can cost hundreds of dollars. Here are some tips to reduce the strain.
Recoup your money on expensive textbooks
Sell your used textbooks as soon as possible. They date quickly. Get most of the money for your textbooks by selling them on consignment before they become outdated. Storing your textbooks while you're not using them is as expensive as packing away your new computer into cold storage. In about two years, the textbooks will be worth almost nothing on the market. Many students think they will use the textbooks later on for reference. Most don't. It is like throwing money away.
Surf the Internet for second-hand books
There are some good sites to check out for second-hand textbooks. If you can't find what you're looking for at your student guild or around campus, try www.unistuff.com.au. You can sell your old textbooks, search for textbooks, and even look for accommodation and computer hardware.
Ten percent discount at Co-op Bookshop
To save money on textbooks I joined the Co-op Bookshop. A one-off fee as a student costs $15 and entitles you to a lifetime membership offering 10 percent discount on all book purchases in all Co-op Bookshops.
They have a huge and varied range of textbooks, from primary to university level, fiction and non-fiction, children's books and so on. Although no discount is offered on computer software products these are sold at hugely reduced prices to students and academics. Check out www.co-opbookshop.com.au.
Add to the enjoyment of your studies and other reading experiences while saving 10 percent of their purchase price. Then put your savings towards the purchase of another book!
Shop around to save on textbooks
If you find the latest texts are not available through book retailers, try other universities. Today I priced the same edition of the same textbook at two university bookstores in my city and found one was 45 percent cheaper. Sometimes this can simply be because the book has a soft cover rather than a hard cover.
If the university websites do not allow access without passwords, call the bookshop number, which is usually listed in the White Pages, and purchase the book in their shop.
Some universities also have competitive retailers who sell the same textbooks at lower prices. Check the university book websites www.qubooks.com.au and union websites. You can find second-hand textbooks at one-third off to half price for current editions, often untouched, and again usually available through the on-campus union shops.
Free website for second-hand textbooks
The cost of textbooks for tertiary study can be very high, on average $120 per textbook. There is a free website that has a database of thousands of second-hand textbooks at hugely reduced prices (up to 50 percent off RRP). Go to: www.textbookexchange.com.au to see if you or your child's textbooks for the upcoming term are available second-hand and you could be saving hundreds of dollars each year.
Limit buying new textbooks
University students are often sucked into buying expensive, shiny new textbooks at an average cost of $400 a semester. I recommend buying new books only if they are a new edition and of high enough quality that they will be reused throughout your studies. Otherwise, try these hints for saving money:
- Talk to the lecturer about second-hand alternatives.
- Borrow a copy of the text from the library (subject to borrowing availability).
- Form a study group and each buy one text to share.
Also, keep in mind that some lecturers will lend you their copy for a short time if you have no alternative.
4. From last month: Too shy to ask for a discount
Last month Naomi Robinson asked:
"Everyone always says that to get great bargains ask for a discount while shopping. The problem is I am too embarrassed and shy. The thought of asking for discounts makes me cringe. I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds this too daunting and embarrassing. Can anyone offer any helpful advice or hints for turning my embarrassment into successful discounts?"
There were lots of helpful and unconventional ways of asking for discounts. All the contributions have been placed in the General -> Discounts -> section of the vault. Here are our favourites.
Ask for 100 percent discount!
I jokingly ask for 100 percent discount and most times I get a discount of some sort.
The thing to remember is that the stores put the prices up to combat the possible theft of items. You can bet they don't lower the prices if there haven't been any thefts! They also make a larger profit than necessary.
My father always said, "If you don't ask, you don't find out!" How true this is.
Bargain on the phone
You will be more anonymous and therefore less self-conscious on the phone. Go to stores and determine what product make and model number you want. Use the price tickets as a guide. Go home and phone the stores quoting the model number and make. Ask how much, and when they have told you the price, ask them for their best price. Avoid stores which say that you have to come in or just that they will match the price.
Salespeople expect to be asked for discounts
I work in retail, and we salespeople can usually give substantial discounts if we are asked.
Don't be embarrassed to ask. Salespeople expect to be asked for discounts, and a lot of people miss out on these discounts simply because they don't ask the question. People from all walks of life ask for discounts, from doctors to pensioners. Also, when buying certain products, such as a video recorder, ask if they will throw in some free video tapes. There are usually extras that can be included in the deal at no extra charge!
Be prepared before you shop
Your intent when seeking out the best deal is to get discounts on the following:
1. The item(s) you want to buy.
2. Cash deal.
3. Free delivery.
Shop around - at least three stores. Take note of the store and the price of the item(s). Return to the store with the best price out of the three and ask them for the best deal they can give you on the item you are interested in. If they ask if you have been shopping around, say "Yes" (as you have). Sometimes the salesperson will ask if you are paying cash. If they don't, wait until they come back with a better price than what is on the sales tag and then ask if that is the best price for cash. They may go away and come back several times, which is okay - they are paid to do this.
Then go to the other two stores and tell them what you have already been quoted and ask for the best price they can give you and if it is the best deal for cash. Cash is always better than credit - it's an instant sale for the store. However, you may still achieve a discount on a credit purchase.
For large items such as furniture - anything that won't fit in the car - ask if the quote includes free delivery. Many stores do charge a delivery fee, so also haggle about this.
Don't feel obligated to buy anything simply because the salespeople are running around putting the best deal together (in their mind!). Guilt is not something you want to take on board. Tell them that you will think about it, or that you will shop around some more. Be frank! Salespeople are also trained to be frank - Frank is your friend.
Besides doing your homework and running around more than the salesperson, the idea is to get the best deal for you. When you are happy, go back to the store with the best deal, and before handing over your cash confirm with them the deal they offered you.
If, however, one store offers a good deal but no free delivery, tell them that another store (name them if you want) offered a slightly higher price but with free delivery and ask if they can better this.
5. Special help request: Travelling to England
Teresa Smith needs to get to England in a hurry so we issued a special help request during the month. Teresa asked:
"I was wondering if your subscribers could assist with hints on how to save me a bundle arranging a quick trip to the UK to be a matron of honour at very short notice in August. My girlfriend and I have been friends for 20 years and she means the world to me. I already support our three boys, and my husband who's at university full time, and to make this trip more affordable would be a godsend. Your readers have such great talents in providing hints I feel could be of valuable assistance to us."
It is difficult at the best of times to travel overseas at such short notice and for Teresa the task will be even more difficult as she will be travelling during Olympic fever time. Your hints were again numerous and ranged from tips about flights and accommodation to what to do when you get there. Contributions have been placed in the Savings Vault under Travel and separated into the categories Accommodation, Flights and General.
Here are some examples of your helpful hints for Teresa.
Best Flights website
Have a look at www.bestflights.com.au. The website and weekly newsletter always have fantastic specials and you should be able to find a reasonably priced fare. Don't pay upwards of $2700 when there are current specials beginning at $1200 return to the UK.
Last minute flights and accommodation
Lastminute.com.au is a website which finds cheap flights and accommodation wherever you wish to travel. By changing departure and arrival dates by a few days you can save almost $1000 on a fare to London.
You can also search for discounted accommodation, as some hotels would rather sell their rooms for a discounted rate at the last minute than leave them empty. You can pick up bargain holiday accommodation, and sometimes even luxury rooms, for up to 70 percent discount.
Travel overseas as a courier
By far the cheapest way to travel overseas is by doing a courier flight. There is only one company in Australia that runs courier flights to the United Kingdom - Jupiter Air Oceania, which is an associate company of two of the world's largest airlines, Qantas and Japan Airlines.
You can only book the flight something like 6-12 weeks before you want to leave and it will involve travelling with a VIP document that you must drop off to a destination in the country. Most of the time you can tell them when you would like to return home. For more information, go to (www.jupiterair.com.au/obc.htm).
All flights originate from Sydney, but there may be out-flights from Melbourne. There is one seat available a day, except Sundays. On Fridays you can stay a night in Tokyo for free. Prices vary according to the month of travel. Return flights cost from $1190 to $1690. One-way costs $700 to $950 including all taxes.
6. Help needed: Economical lactose free milk
This month, Connie San Juan asked:
"I have children who have to drink lactose free milk, which is priced between $1.80 per litre when on special and about $2.10 normally. I wonder if there is anyone out there who would know how to buy cheaper lactose free milk. This would be a great help."
To help Connie, go to www.simplesavings.com.au/donatehints/.
7. Saving story: Our new kitchen and bathroon cost $2500
Renovating your kitchen and bathroom is supposed to be really expensive. Clever Kylie did it for $2500. Here is her story:
"We renovated our kitchen from a disastrous mission brown chipboard style to white melamine, with stainless steel appliances and Baltic pine floorboards, all for $1500! We contacted a builder who does renovations in wealthy suburbs and asked him to look out for any kitchens that the owners were upgrading but wanted to get rid of. The kitchen we got was four years old, with a few bumps and scratches here and there, but great quality - all the cupboards and drawers were made of quality materials and were on good rollers and hinges. And there was a stainless steel range hood, stove top and oven (Smeg brand) included in that amazing price!
My husband pulled out the kitchen to save on costs and moved it all himself. He even managed to get the glass splashback off the wall without a crack.
In addition, the owners threw in a matching white vanity unit for our bathroom and white laundry cupboards as they were upgrading their bathroom too and this meant they could get rid of it all in one go. As if that wasn't enough, they were knocking down an old shed out the back that had Baltic pine floorboards - admittedly they were rather grey and horrid, but with a few sandings they have come up a treat.
We have now renovated our bathroom and kitchen for around $2500 (we just had to buy some tiles, paint and tap fittings), which is an incredible saving! To do this normally would cost you anywhere up to $30,000!
The owners thought they needed a change from a kitchen of four years old and received $1,500 for something the builders were probably going to throw out. We scored a fantastic modern, upgraded kitchen for a fraction of the cost - and a new bathroom. One man's junk is definitely another man's treasure!"
8. What is the Savings Vault?
The Savings Vault is Simple Savings paid members area. It costs $47 per year and it is chock-full of over 4500 saving hints. New hints are added every week.
Joining the vault will give you more control. If you want to start learning how to lower your electricity bill you can go to that section of the vault this evening rather than have to wait till we include a hint on electricity in the newsletter. To give you an idea of how massive the Savings Vault is, here is the link to the preview page: www.simplesavings.com.au/vault/?preview=1
To become a member go to: www.simplesavings.com.au/order/
If you have encountered a problem with our newsletter, please email me. I will give your comments immediate attention.
© 2004 AL Consulting Pty Ltd. This publication may be freely redistributed if copied in its entirety. Portions of this newsletter may be reprinted with written permission.