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Budgeting tips and tools to get your finances on track

The festive season is a time that sometimes sees you lose pounds from the wallet rather than the waistband. Whether it’s present shopping, trips away or catching up with friends – often all three – we generally spend far more than usual and by the New Year, can find ourselves a little low on funds.

The good news is getting back on track is not only manageable with a few budgeting tweaks but it can also set up good habits for the rest of the year. You’ve no doubt been budgeting for years, so here are a few tips you might not have thought of and new finance tools to help you save your pennies.

Track your spending

We all know the best way to budget is to get an understanding of where your money is going so you can see where savings can be made. While some of us know that we spend a bit too much on some things – say clothes or good food and wine – it can be surprising to find out where else your money is going. Also, if cuts can be made in a certain area then you might not have to give up your favourite treats. Free budgeting apps like Pocketbook and the free TrackMySpend tool by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) enable you to make a note of what you’re spending money on daily, down to take away coffee and bus fares, and tally up where your money is going on a monthly basis.

Save cents

While we’re on apps, a spate of microsaving apps have sprung up that save your pennies in such small amounts, you don’t even notice. One of the ways they do this is to access your bank account and then round up the cost of your daily purchases to the next dollar and invest the small change. In the case of Acorns – which has 3 million users in the US and recently hit Australians stores – the idea is the app functions as an entry-level investment product but you can access your savings when needed without charge. You can also direct these apps to withdraw small ongoing sums from your account and save or invest them. Check out Qapital and Digit too.

Reduce bills

If you’ve been with your landline and mobile provider for a while and are no longer in a fixed-period contract, chances are you’ll be able to negotiate a better deal – they’re almost always prepared to make alterations to keep you as a customer. Thinking about researching and switching providers is exhausting, and that’s why many of us stay with certain companies when there may be better deals on offer. If you can find the time and energy, you could call other providers and see if they can offer a better deal.

For house bills, it’s well worth shopping around. When comparing plans, Choice recommends considering factors like the rate per kWh, fixed supply charges, late fees if you don’t pay your bill on time and the length of contract.

Embrace the share economy

Peer-to-peer services, or share economy businesses, have become really popular over the last few years – and for good reason. There are resources that’ll help you borrow items, save on money and find others who might have interests the same as yours.

Apia Good Life recently looked at some of these companies in-depth, but a couple to consider include Open Shed, which allows you to rent out items like bikes and drills from other people in your local community; PetHomeStay that connects pet hosts with pet owners who need someone to care for their dogs while they’re at work or away travelling and Vayable, which pays you to become a local tour guide.

Whether your goals for the New Year are to pay off your debts as you enter retirement, save for an overseas trip or a new car, there are plenty of ways you can get your finances on track in 2018. For some more advice, head over to the MoneySmart website. 

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The material on the Apia Good Life has been prepared for informational purposes only and isn’t intended to be relied on as a substitute for advice from a qualified professional.

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