Personal finance | how to save on your mortgage, phone and energy bills
Here’s how to do it:
- Max benefit: $21,000 over two years.
- Time: Finding an offer or a broker can take as little as 30 minutes, but the sign-up process will take longer, possibly as long as six weeks.
“If you’re committed to fixing your finances, start with your biggest recurring expense, and work backwards in a methodical manner,” RateCity research director Sally Tindall says. “For most borrowers, that means starting with their mortgage.”
If you haven’t refinanced since the beginning of this rate hiking cycle, it’s time to “put a blowtorch on your bank”, Tindall says, adding that the average owner-occupier who has not refinanced is likely to be sitting on a 7.11 per cent rate.
For a big bank customer with $1 million in borrowings and 25 years remaining on a mortgage, moving to the average big bank’s lowest variable rate could save $355 a month, or $11,185 over two years, RateCity calculates.
That’s based on a new rate of 6.55 per cent.
But people who go all out and refinance can save as much as $21,001 over two years, even when factoring in bank discharge fees, government fees and new lender fees, RateCity says.
“You have to get to the mortgage in this hour,” agrees Joel Gibson, the author of Kill Bills, a guide to saving on household essentials. “That’s the big kahuna.”
The key to haggling is to come armed with information about rival lenders’ offers.
And while it’s possible – and quicker – to do most things online, revisiting your mortgage is one of the jobs for which you will probably need to pick up the phone. “You need to leave yourself at least 20 minutes at the end of the hour to save on your mortgage,” Gibson says.
All of this comes with a caveat: while you can have the phone call and ask for a better rate within the hour, you’ll need to spend a bit of time in the lead-up doing your homework, and some time after dealing with the paperwork.
- Max benefit: $4704 over two years.
- Time: 15 minutes for research and 10 mins for forms
There have been 13 RBA cash rate rises since May last year and some banks are paying the best rates of interest on savings in a decade. “But some have barely picked themselves up off the floor – especially the big four bank online saver accounts, which still have millions of customers,” Tindall says.
While these accounts might not carry the tricky terms and conditions of accounts paying more attractive rates, they make up for it with “pathetic” ongoing rates, ranging from 1.10 per cent to 2.35 per cent, she says.
“If an existing Westpac eSaver customer with $50,000 in their account, moved this money into the highest ongoing savings account in the market – ME Bank’s HomeME – they would be moving from an ongoing rate of 1.10 per cent to an ongoing rate of 5.55 per cent.”
The ME Bank offer is conditional on customers growing their balance and depositing $2000 but, assuming that’s OK, a switcher would earn an extra $2294 in interest over one year, and $4704 over two.
- Max benefit: $428 over two years.
- Time: 15 mins for research and 10 mins for forms
Then consider credit and rewards cards. The typical rewards card charges between $200 and $400 a year with an interest rate of more than 20 per cent.
But switching to a cheaper card could save up to $428 over two years.
“If the average credit card user had an ANZ Rewards Black card, and paid interest charges on around $1000 of debt each month, they could be shelling out around $354 in fees and charges, even when the rewards points are factored in,” says Tindall.
That’s based on the user spending just over $2000 a month and redeeming points for $100 Woolworths vouchers.
Switching to a low-rate card could save an estimated $214 in the first year and $428 in the second.
- Max benefit: $781.37 over two years.
- Time: 10 mins for research and 10 mins for forms
Next up, the phone bill. Someone on a basic plan, such as Telstra’s unlimited calls and texts, 50GB plan, could save $537.70 in two years, if they moved to Aldi’s $39 5G plan, which is on the same network as Telstra.
But if you’re not using that much data, you could move to Aldi’s $29 plan and save $781.37 over two years.
“Of course, it is important to read the fine print, particularly if you are likely to go over your data limit or make international calls and texts, because mobile phone plans can and do vary significantly,” Tindall says.
Gibson says that when switching your mobile plan you’ll need to prepare for between five and 45 minutes without signal. So if you’re planning to use that device for the rest of this to-do list, maybe leave this switch to the end.
People on plans can also switch, he adds, but they’ll need to pay out the remaining payments. So factor that into any potential savings.
- Max benefit: $1350 over one year.
- Time: 10 mins research (per utility) and five mins for forms
“You can easily search for the cheapest deals online without having to pick up the phone, and you can switch in a matter of minutes by filling out a form,” Gibson says.
For gas and electricity, he recommends government website energymadeeasy.gov.au. This site lists every publicly available offer in price order, so you can easily see if there’s a better deal around.
In Victoria, use compare.energy.vic.gov.au.
Some people get even better deals through groups such as motoring clubs and One Big Switch.
According to Vinnies, a typical NSW household could save up to $950 a year by switching from the incumbent retailer to the best market offer, while those in Victoria could save up to $185.
Meanwhile, in Queensland, savers moving from an Origin or AGL standing offer to the best electricity market offer would save around $635 per year.
Gibson suggests using specialist comparison site WhistleOut to check on broadband. Moving from a standard plan to the cheapest could save $400, he says.
While the comparisons and actual switching can be done in minutes, you’ll need to prepare for a couple of calls from your existing gas or electricity retailer. Gibson says it’s worth taking the calls, because the company will typically make you a better offer. “You might save hundreds without having to switch,” he says.
- Max benefit: $1000 over one year, but will vary.
- Time: 20 mins for research (one or two quotes) and 15 mins for forms
RateCity requested quotes for a 31-year-old female driver with a 2018 Mazda Sedan who drives up to 15,000 kilometres a year and keeps her car in a driveway at home.
“The best offered comprehensive car insurance for a year at just over $1000, while others – with the exact same criteria – quoted over $2000,” Tindall says. “Doing 15 minutes of work to gather quotes could very well save you over $1000 – not a bad rate.”
- Max benefit: $2184 over one year.
- Time: 15 minutes.
The average Australian spends $27 per week on their gym membership, but one in five don’t actually go, according to Finder. Cancelling would therefore save up to $1404 a year.
Seventeen per cent of Australians have forgotten to cancel a free trial. An overlooked $20 monthly subscription adds up to $240 a year, a figure that soars to $1040 a year if the charge is weekly.
Then, if you’re one of the 69 per cent of Australians who use a streaming service, it’s worth asking how much value you get from it. The average Australian spends $45 a month on streaming services – that’s $540.
Gift cards, stuff to sell and air conditioning
- Maximum benefit: $1260, plus any savings from lower energy bills.
- Time: 10 minutes (you can list your used items later)
According to Finder, the average Australian who decided to sell pre-owned goods this year made about $897. About 40 per cent of people have unused gift cars lying around worth a whopping $1.9 billion.
One last thing – check your air-conditioning settings and unplug anything you’re not using. Energy prices have risen by up to 25 per cent and standby power, or power going to appliances that are not being used, could cost up to $120 a year. On a similar note, every additional degree over your air conditioning system’s optimal temperature can add 10 per cent to running costs, Finder reckons.
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