per Vanessa Stoykov
Sometimes asking the right question is all you need to do to improve things in your life. But if you don’t know what to ask, you can’t get a result. Vanessa Stoykov has worked in the financial services sector as an educator for more than 24 years. She says five simple questions can save you thousands of dollars.
1. Is this the best deal I can get?
It sounds basic, but we often don’t ask the question. The first suspects are your health insurance, utilities and super fund. It’s important to find out what fees you are paying and ask the question. For example, I realised that I was paying for maternity cover on my health care long after that horse had bolted! Nobody ever stopped to ask me if I still needed it, and I never asked the question. Same with your utility company. Ask if there is a contract that may be cheaper – or if you pay via direct debit – ask if you can get a discount or if the company has any other promotion or plan that can save on your utility bills. This can put major dollars back in your bank account, rather than in theirs.
2. Do I really need this now?
I know, we usually believe we do, but it’s a great question to ask yourself when out and about shopping – especially if you intend to put this item on your credit card. If you don’t have the cash to pay for it, and it’s not a burning, critical, must-have item, really question whether you need it. Because putting things on credit is just increasing the burden on you to keep working just to pay it back. Start thinking about how to make what you have last longer, or go further, and cut back on what you are spending day to day.
3. Can I get this cheaper buying online or in bulk?
Too often we pay more for items because we need them now. A bit of planning and research can often save you thousands. Google is the first port of call, and with online selling sites, and cheap bulk discount places such as Aldi or Costco, thinking ahead, and shopping around can save you a lot. Even buying in bulk and storing it can really work to reduce your day-to-day shopping bills.
4. How much can I invest in myself?
For years, I have worked on the adage to pay myself first – which can be hard when you have a whole bunch of things to pay for. Usually, we pay whatever we need to, and whatever we have left is what we live on. This is ineffective because we are putting ourselves last – and to get ahead, you need to put yourself first. Some have a rule to put away 10 per cent of their earnings before anything else gets paid. The key is to ask yourself: what are you worth and how can you invest in yourself more? Then, open an account that’s hard to touch and get an amount deducted from your pay. In a few months you won’t even notice it’s gone; you’ll have a tidy nest egg building up, and that feels good.
5. What do I really want for my life?
Sounds like a big question, but if you don’t have a goal, then all the questions in the world won’t motivate you. By spending some time thinking about what you really want your life to be like, not just next week or next month, but next year, in five years or 10 years, you can start making some strategic decisions about life. Thinking long term can save you thousands of dollars by not making bad short-term decisions that don’t serve you and the life you really want.
Do you have any sneaky cost-cutting strategies to share? Do you buy in bulk? Do you query your energy company regularly?
Vanessa Stoykov is a financial educator who believes anybody can start making their money work for them if they unlearn their habits around money. Her website, VanessaStoykov.com has tips and tools to help you get ahead financially.