With "sorting out my finances" as one of NZ's top New Year's resolutions it's time to start thinking about the basics. Going on a money diet is of those perennial things that journalists like me harp on about. You can, if you're smart, increase your available cash by a good chunk a month – some say 10% - by shopping around for essentials such as insurance, savings accounts, mortgages, holidays and more.
Here are some of the easiest things to do:
Don’t renew your insurance: When did you last shop around for insurance cover? I've got a renewal on my desk and according to the Consumer website search I could both save money and get better cover by switching to State. Other insurance tips include:
- Increase your excesses on insurance.
- Don't be over-insured either and beware of the sum insured being increased every year.
Get even with your bank: Raboplus customers know better than most the value of cheating on your bank. It's essential to shop around for lower fee current accounts - unless you qualify for "free" banking. Money can be saved by having the right credit card.
Fight your phone bills: Talk may be cheap. But oh deary me do people throw away good money on their phones. Shopping around can save big chunks of money. I pay a flat rate for national calls with Slingshot. Likewise for the people whose calling pattern it suits, the Vodafone home phone offers are stunningly cheap – compared to competitors. To move telecoms providers, you first need to understand your personal calling patterns. If you're really lazy you could phone your existing provider, ask them to look at your calling pattern and suggest a cheaper deal for you. Don't forget to make free Internet calls on Skype or other services when possible.
Murder your mortgage rate: It can pay to refinance or at least to fix your home loan. If you can second guess when rates hit rock bottom, then you'll save thousands of dollars by fixing for a longer period. But it's always worth getting a mortgage broker to do the shopping for you.
Holidays: I'm a terrible last minute chancer when it comes to holidays – which sometimes costs me dearly. If you're planning an overseas holiday this year – or even inter Island travel, then you should be shopping around now. January is a terrible time for airline bookings and as a result, many of the best deals are to be had now.
It's often hard to search for good cheap fares online and from personal experience some of the best deals can be had with travel agents. I've had some success with Grabaseat.co.nz, Itchyfeet.co.nz and HOT.co.nz.
Motoring: Are you running two cars and could run one? Do you need the latest model leased car, when a $5,000 basic runabout (or even $2,000) would do? See my blog on Bangernomics.
Pay by direct debit: if paying by direct debit comes with a discount, then do it.
Spend less on the basics. Don't let supermarkets con you into thinking that gourmet items are essentials. See my Whacked in the wallet blog for more.
Do you have any tips and tricks about your financial resolutions?