Have you made a resolution to be better with money this year? After 2020, many of us could probably do with spending a little less and saving a little more.
Luckily, consumer advocate CHOICE has released a checklist to help you start the year off on the right foot.
“No-one wants 2021 to feel like the hangover from 2020,” says CHOICE consumer advocate Julia Steward.
“So CHOICE, as Australia’s non-profit consumer champion, is here to help you have a fresh start. We put products and services to the test so you don’t have to. You can take charge of 2021, saving water, cleaning up your finances and ditching things you don’t need anymore,” says Ms Steward.
Here are five simple things to do to improve your home, finances and life in 2021.
1. Watch out for water wasters
“Australians are getting more and more conscious of their water use every year,” says Ms Steward.
We happen to be in a La Nina weather pattern, which occurs every three to seven years and typically means increased rainfall across much of Australia. But we still need to be conscious of how much we’re using to keep water bills down and reduce the impact on the environment. So, start the year by hunting down the water wasters in your home.
“In our independent lab testing, sadly, we find some whitegoods will do significant damage to your water bill and add to the pressure on our water sources,” says Ms Steward.
“Washer-dryer combo machines are some of the worst for water waste and one recent Samsung washer scored just 1 per cent for water efficiency in our tests.”
What else to look out for when trying to save on your water bill
- Leaky taps. Worn or cracked washers or O-rings in valves can cause taps to drip or dribble water. Though not typically difficult to repair, the task can be quite time consuming, so it may be best to consult a professional.
- Poorly attached showerheads. A leaky showerhead can reduce the water pressure coming out of the head, meaning more time spent in the shower and water going straight down the drain without being used. A good clean or some plumbers tape may be a good solution.
- Broken flapper valve in the toilet. If you hear the toilet running when it hasn’t been recently used it’s likely that the flapper valve has been damaged. When this happens, the valve won’t seal properly, allowing water to flow out of the toilet tank. Not sure if the flapper valve is leaking? Put a drop of food colouring in the toilet tank. If any colour shows up in the bowl after 10 minutes – it’s a valve leak.
2. Audit your accounts
Performing an annual financial audit is one of the smartest money moves you can make to help you understand what’s going on in your finances. January is the perfect time to review your services and contracts to ensure you know exactly what you’re paying for.
“A lot has changed this last year – audit your bank accounts and credit cards to see what you’re regularly paying for. Is that credit card with travel rewards worth it this year? Are you going to the gym? Are you paying too much for your internet? Are you overpaying insurance for a car you barely drive?” says Ms Steward.
If you aren’t seeing the value in an account that you hold, cancel it.
With bank accounts, it’s not uncommon to find yourself holding separate accounts and there’s no reason to consolidate them if they all serve a purpose. For instance, you might have multiple savings accounts for different goals or situations.
The important thing though is to find out how much these accounts are charging you and how much interest you’re earning. If you find yourself paying bank fees for multiple accounts, you might want to think about moving them to a no-fee option or consolidating.
3. Avoid dud health insurance
Understanding health insurance can be tricky and deciding on a policy is daunting, especially when trying to compare like for like products.
“Too many people get stuck on dud health insurance deals. You think you’re covered and then when the worst happens, you’re stuck with huge unexpected bills. We’ve named and shamed the worst health insurance policies from Medibank, Bupa, HCF, HBF and NIB. If you have one of these policies, you can do better,” says Ms Steward.
Check out the health insurance deals with the worst value. Is yours on the list?
Health insurance premiums will go up on 1 April 2021 so review your cover now to get the best price and policy.
4. Stay cool
Staying cool at home doesn’t have to break the bank, in fact, CHOICE has put together the top 10 tips to keep your home cool. With a little DIY and some changes in habits, you can enjoy a cool home while keeping a lid on your energy bill.
A reverse-cycle air conditioner has been found to be a good investment long term. It’ll keep you cool in summer and warm in winter without leaving you with an extortionate power bill.
“If you rent and don’t have air conditioning, you don’t have to stump up for an expensive Dyson fan – our tests this year found some much cheaper department store fans beat out the cult brand. The cheapest option of all is to seal your home and be smart with shade,” says Ms Steward.
5. Ditch products that don’t work
The new year is the perfect time for a cleaning cupboard clear-out. CHOICE put a whole bunch of household cleaners to the test to see how well they cleaned compared to water alone, and the results were surprising.
“We awarded the whole category of floor cleaners a CHOICE Shonky in 2020, because they could barely beat plain water,” says Ms Steward.
“But it’s not just floor cleaners – lots of the cleaning products around your home are frankly useless and can be replaced by better, cheaper options or even classic home remedies. We put a huge range of cleaners to the test every year.
“You could be paying less and getting a better clean with a quick check of our reviews.”
How do you get ready for the new year? Are there any products that you’ll be investing in or ditching this year?