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Retirement affordability suggestions

Based on the results from our Retirement Affordability survey, we know our members are a bunch of savvy spenders and savers. So, in what will be a four-part series of articles, we’ve chosen 20 of the best and simplest tips provided and offer ways in which they can be achieved.

1. Household tips
Your tips: Limit cleaning products to vinegar methylated spirits and bicarbonate of soda instead of using dozens of expensive products. And use cold water as much as possible for washing clothes.

It’s a great idea to use what you have in your home as natural cleaning products, not only are they generally cheaper, using less of harsh chemicals is better for the environment and your health. Using natural products also takes a little more elbow grease, so there is also an associated fitness benefit.

For some suggestions on what to use, and for which purpose, read out article ‘Four natural cleaning products’.

2. Manage your power usage
Your tips: Install solar panels. Reduce electricity. Be careful with power.

While all these are great tips, it’s often the standard supply charges that make reducing power bills difficult. The cost of installing solar panels may be prohibitive.  And given that the Government is about to cease investment in small-scale solar projects, this will remove this method of cost reduction for those who don’t own their own home or live in an apartment or unit and can’t readily install solar panels themselves.

First step is to compare your current charges against what is being offered by other energy retailers. To do this, you should compare: 

  • the supply charge, (fixed daily amount)
  • the price (tariff) you are paying for energy (how many cents per kWh or MJ)
  • discounts offered and to which charges they
  • incentives on offer
  • contract period and payment options (e.g. direct debit, BPay, Centrepay, monthly billing)
  • price increase terms and whether you can fix the price for a certain period
  • any fees, including early termination fees or incentive payback terms.
  • any fees for a paper bill or credit card payments.

Once you have decided on a new energy retailer, or decided to stick with your current provider, then you should look at how you use your power. These 10 simple tips may help reduce the energy you use. 

Dress correctly
Layering clothes and wearing wool helps keep you warm in winter, which should enable you to turn your heater down.

Drop the thermostat
Every degree above 20 can add 10 per cent to your heating bill and in summer, set your thermostat to 26 degrees or above to save on cooling costs.

Wash clothes in cold water
No only is it better for your clothes, you can save around $115 per year by washing your clothes in cold water. Using the shortest cycle possible will also help cut costs.

Fix your fridge
As your fridge is always switched on, making sure it’s sealed and stacked properly is key to using your energy efficiently. Ensure your door seals are tight and don’t over fill your fridge. To ensure the motor doesn’t over heat, your fridge should also have at least a 10mm gap between it and any wall.

Stop standby power waste
Up to 10 per cent of your electricity could be used by gadgets and appliances that are on standby. You can simply ensure everything is switched off, or install standby power controllers that switch appliances off when not in use.

3. Cook in bulk, using cheaper ingredients
Your tips: Cook nourishing soups and freeze two or three varieties, cook other dishes double amounts and freeze for future use.

It goes without saying that soups and stews are hearty meals that can be made in large amounts and frozen. Less expensive cuts of meat and vegetables that may be about to spoil can also be used, making such dishes incredibly economical. Throw in the use of a slow cooker and you also reduce your power bills.

Why not try our recipes that are great for doing all of the above, or share your own?

4. Give the high street a miss
Your tips: Shop at factory outlets. Shop for clothes at OP shops

Unless you’re looking to dress at the cutting edge of fashion, then shopping at large chain stores or expensive boutiques isn’t really necessary. Op shops not only sell goods for less, you usually find better quality clothing that people may simply have grown out of or no longer wear. And remembers, you’ll also be help a worthy cause. This handy site can help you find op shops in your area, with customer recommendations to help you choose which ones are best.


Factory outlets are another good place to get good quality clothing, footwear and even household goods without paying high street prices. As the goods are often from last season, they are sold at a much lower price. The only downside of factory outlets is that they tend to be out-of-town. You can, however, always get a group of friends together to share the transport costs and make a day of it.

Check out AFO.com.au for details of outlets that are in your vicinity. 

5. Idle hands…
Your tips: Keep busy through work as a volunteer.

Take your mind off the long days and remove the temptation to spend by volunteering at your chosen charity or organisation to keep yourself busy. Not only will you be doing some good, you’ll also be giving yourself the chance to make new friends and keep active.

Ask around to find out what opportunities are available or search on VolunteeringAustralia.org

Click ‘Next‘ to read Part two and the next five tips

Part two


6. Transportation
Your tips: Use public transportation.  If you have access to public transport, you can save quite a bit of money on gas, parking and maintenance over time. Rideshare services such as ZipCar and Uber make it easier than ever to live car-free in major cities.

Make the most of any discounts you can on public transport by claiming a seniors discount where you can. Make sure you’ve applied for your Seniors Card as this not only helps you to claim discounts in your home state, but also when travelling interstate.

Find out who can get a Seniors Card and how to apply.  

If you’re planning a journey or trip, it’s possible to find someone to travel with, who is only too happy to share the fuel cost. There are several services that allow you to register and then post the trip you want to take, either offering to take someone with you, or find someone who is willing to take you. As with all such services, you do have to be careful to vet your travel companion, but it’s a clever way to save on driving costs.

Try these sites:

Or if you don’t fancy sharing a car, or only need one for a short period of time, there are services that allow you to rent a vehicle by the hour.

Try these sites:

7. Grow your own
Your tips: My own veggie garden. Grow your own veggies, always fresh. Have an allotment

If you’ve got even just a little space, growing your own vegetables is not only cost effective once you get started, it’s a great way to pass the time, gives a real sense of achievement and you’ll always know where your food came from.

The initial costs of soil, seedlings, netting etc, can quickly mount up but try joining a community group that shares seedlings, expertise and can help cut costs by buying in bulk.

If you don’t have your own garden, or access to your own allotment, community allotments are another good way to spread the cost, and meet new friends. Ask at your local council offices for details.

You can also buy starter veggie garden kits, which often come in repurposed crates, or custom designed versions.  Your local hardware store or garden centre will have several options from which you can choose.

8. Budgeting
Your tips: Maintain a budget app. Write down income and expenses. Carefully reconcile bank statements

Everyone should learn to budget, whether you’re on a fixed or low-income, or have a good level of income, knowing where your money comes from, and more importantly where it goes, will help you plan for the future. A budget can be a simple as a sheet of paper with two columns, a more complicated spreadsheet or a budgeting tool such as an app or desktop file.

What is important is to ensure you mark down everything on which you spend your money – you’ll be surprised by the amount that all the incidentals add up to.

For ideas on which budgeting apps to use, read ‘Save with these budgeting apps’. 

If you prefer a tool that can be used on your desktop, Moneysmart.gov.au has a clever and easy-to-use calculator that can help keep you spending on track. 

9. Shop around
Your tips: Always shop around before purchasing anything, and then before you buy, decide whether it’s really needed. Buy in bulk to get cheaper prices. Read the specials catalogues. Put on layby and cancel if you decide you don’t need or want it.

The internet is a bargain hunter’s dream. No longer do you have to trudge around shops to find the best price for the item you’re looking to buy, all the details you need are at your fingertips. That being said, if you’re buying a big-ticket item, don’t be afraid to ask for a discount, free delivery or some added value.

It’s not just the more expensive purchases that require a bit of research; savvy shoppers will know where to find the cheapest tin of beans or loaf of bread in any given week. Those catalogues that fill up your mailbox may be a pain in the posterior, but spend five minutes flicking through and you’ll be surprised how much you could save on you everyday grocery shopping. If you’re strictly a ‘No Junk mail’ person, then you can view most of the catalogues online, either on the stores’ websites, or sites such as Lasso.com.au 

Buying in bulk if it gives you a cheaper price per unit is a clever idea, but consider getting together with friends and spreading the cost. Don’t buy things in bulk just because they’re on special; consider if you really need what you’re buying and indeed, if you’ll use them.

If you’re tempted to buy something because it’s on special, put it on layby (assuming that the layby fee isn’t too large). That way, not only will you be able to pay it off when you can afford to, if you decide it’s really an impulse buy, you can cancel your layby and get your money back.

10. Home maintenance
Try to be more DIY around the home. Add value to your home with little jobs. Do small jobs yourself.

Doing more DIY around the home is a noble idea, but if you’re really no good with a hammer or drill, leave it to the professionals. However, there are plenty of resources available that can help you with the little jobs that can be tackled. Whether it’s changing a washer on a tap, relacing a showerhead, painting your window frames, there’s a how-to video that will give you step-by-step instructions on how to achieve your DIY goal.

Watch videos on how to do the little jobs around the home on Better Homes and Gardens YouTube channel

If you’re keen to get cracking on those little jobs around the house, these 10 DIY tips will help you on your way. 

Click ‘Next‘ to read Part three and the next five tips 

Part three

11. Light bulbs
Your tips: Use LED bulbs and only switch them on when required. Use government grants to install LED bulbs.

On average, lighting consumes eight to 15 per cent of a household’s electricity bill. Traditional lighting in Australia has typically been incandescent, which is gradually being phased out. Of course, the cost of replacing not just the bulbs but the fittings as well can be costly, no matter how much you’ll save in the long term – about $50 per year. The good news is that many state governments are providing funding through energy efficiency certificates. These certificates are issued to businesses that undertake energy-saving programs, thus saving greenhouse gas emissions, with such savings passed on to the consumer.

To find out more about the schemes available, click the links below.

NSW – Energy Savings Scheme

Vic – Energy Saver Incentive

SA – Retailer Energy Efficiency Scheme

If your state or territory doesn’t offer a scheme to install more energy-efficient lighting, there may be other energy rebates you can claim. To find out what’s available, visit Yourenergysavings.gov.au

12. Stay at home
Your tips: No holidays or outings. Get family to visit you. Only travel if the deal is truly unbeatable

Taking no holidays or outings is at the extreme end of saving money, but if you plan and are flexible, then the odd day out now and again should be achievable.

Firstly, there’s no need to travel to the other side of the world to have fun. Australia is a vast land, offering coastal, country, city and outback landscapes to enjoy. If you have a Seniors Card or Concession Card, take advantage of the transport discounts and free travel available to you. If you’re unsure of what you’re entitled, contact your local government transport office. And remember you can also use your Seniors Card for transport discounts interstate and even in New Zealand.

Next, if you like to hit the open road, look at the one-way relocation deals offered by campervan and motorhome rental providers. Yes, you need to be flexible about the dates you travel and the route you take. You may also have to arrange transport to or from your starting point/destination. But if you have a few friends who are willing to make the trip also, it could be a great way to save money and have a laugh along the way.

Lastly, consider joining a club that arranges day trips or inexpensive holidays. By spreading the cost of transport this can be a good way to travel, especially if you’re on your own and don’t enjoy travelling alone. Try a Google search or ask at your local library or community centre about organisations that offer such trips.

13. Banking
Your tip: Use an Orange Everyday account to accrue two per cent rebate automatically on all transactions of $100 or below. Also use any ATM in Australia without charge. There is an initial charge by the bank concerned, but the ING bank automatically refunds that amount in a day or two.

OK, so this tip is quite specific, but we like the idea of getting money back on money you’re spending. If you’re not keen on changing banks, you can ask your own financial institution if it can match or better this deal, or any other deal you see.

It’s important to use ATMs that have no charges, as these can quickly accumulate, especially if you’re only withdrawing small amounts at a time to keep a check on your spending. Also, consider asking for cash out at shops if you can’t access a free ATM. Woolworths enable you to do this at its checkouts without requiring you to purchase anything first.

14. Rent not buy
Your tips: Local library. Book clubs. DVD sharing groups.

Books and DVDS can be incredibly expensive, especially if you only read or watch them once. Your local library is a great resource and good way to save money on all sorts of services and entertainment. You may have to wait for popular books and DVDs, but you’re sure to find something else to amuse you in the meantime. As well as offering the chance to catch up on your daily newspaper or favourite magazine, libraries are a warm space where you can see some friendly and familiar faces. Many libraries also offer internet access for free.

You may also want to consider joining a book or DVD sharing group. And if you can’t find one locally, why not start one yourself? It’s a great social activity and a clever way to access new-release books and DVDs that others may already have or at least be willing to share the cost of purchase.

15. Spread the cost
Your tips: Pay fortnightly installments where possible. Don’t pay your insurance in full. Split the cost of bills.

Many of the companies that bill you, whether it’s for utilities, insurance premiums or even your rent, will be happy to accept payments fortnightly. This often helps if you’re on an Age Pension and don’t want to have a big bill at the end of the month or quarter. But you do have to be aware that some may charge more for the privilege making more frequent payments.

If you access internet banking, an alternative is to use sub accounts, which many banks will allow you to set up for free. You can have one for rent, utilities, car and even just for fun. Then all you have to do when you receive your income or pension, is put a little in each until the bill is due. Of course, you will have to have a level of discipline so you don’t dip into your pots of money.

If you receive a payment from Centrelink, you may wish to consider Centrepay. Centrepay is a free service that deducts an agreed, regular amount from your Centrelink benefits and pays the money directly to your selected organisation. You can start, change or cancel your deductions at any time.

Paying small amounts regularly can help make expenses such as rent, utilities, home care services and ambulance costs affordable and ensure you keep your budget under control.

For more information, visit HumanServices.gov.au


Click ‘Next‘ to read Part four and the final five tips

Part four

16. Savings
Your tips: Same as ever, save first spend second. Try saving a little each week. Put your credit cards in a bag of water and freeze – there if you need them but out of the way of temptation.

It’s a basic of budgeting that is often forgotten – don’t spend more than you have coming in. By keeping your finances simple, you’re more likely to remain on top of bills and expenditure. Saving when you’re on a limited income isn’t easy; in fact, sometimes it’s downright impossible. But if you can put aside five or 10 per cent of your income as soon as it’s received, you’ll always have some for a rainy day.

The other savings tip that can see you build a nice little nest egg is the 52-week saving challenge.  It works by putting $1 in the first week, $2 in the second, $3 in the third etc., until you put away $52 in the 52nd week. By the end of the 52 weeks, you’ll have $1378 sitting in your piggy bank. Now of course, it does get more difficult as the weeks progress, but even if you keep it going for as long as you can comfortably afford, you’ll be able to put the money to good use when you decide to stop.

We love the idea of popping your credit cards in the freezer as there’s no doubt having access to a credit card is incredibly useful, it can be just too tempting to spend on non-essentials if you carry it around in your wallet.

17. Concession Cards
Your tips: Use pensioner concession cards as much as possible. Utilise pensioner discounts in shops

Pensioner Concession Cards (PCC) can make a huge difference to utility bills, rates, vehicle registration, prescription medication and so much more. But as concessions vary between states and territories, and even local councils, it’s worth keeping up to date with what is available to you to help you save.

To find out what discounts are available to you, visit Australia.gov.au

If you don’t have a PCC, you may be able to apply for a Seniors Card. Seniors Cards are generally issued to those over 60 who no longer work full time. However, eligibility does vary between state and territory, so you should check to see if you are eligible. Seniors Cards entitled the holder to various government concessions, free and reduced public transport and access to discounts offered by local business.

You can find out more about Seniors Cards here

Local business and even large supermarkets will have certain days where they offer discounts. It’s always worth asking if you can have a discount and remember to share the details with friends.

18. Savvy supermarket shopping
Your tips: Buy home brand. Shop when stores are closing for the best bargains. Look for the bashed item section. Take a shopping list.

Buying home brand goods, especially everyday essentials, such as cling wrap, detergent, salt, butter, flour, milk and bread, can save you a considerable amount of money on your weekly shop. However, some shoppers are either to loyal to grands they’ve always bought, or believe that home brand products are inferior. In reality, it’s often only the packing that’s less appealing and the $2 shower gel gets you just as clean as the $10 version in the fancy bottle. Of course, it’s worth trying a range of products to see if you prefer them to the commercial brands and even if you make the switch in 50 per cent of the products on offer, you’ll make a saving.

The growth of Aldi in Australia is testament that there is no need to buy the big brands. Aldi offers products that are popular in Europe and are not necessarily home brand. You’ll often find that the products taste better than what you’re used to because they have a different recipe to the Australian versions.

Shopping when stores are closing is the best time to get bargains on fresh food, such as meat, fruit and vegetables, and bread products. You can pop them in your freezer, or use them in dishes that can be frozen to be eaten at a later date.

But perhaps the simplest way to save money is to take a shopping list and stick to it. Don’t be tempted by specials or offers and if the shop doesn’t have what you want, just wait until next time rather than buy a more expensive option. If supermarkets offer an online shopping option, you can often create your list online and simply head to the store.

19. Home brew
Your tips: Brew home beer or wine. Make your own pickles and preserves.

Brewing your own beer or making your own wine can be fun but it’s worth keeping in mind that the initial outlay on equipment can be costly. However, once you’ve bought much of what you need, you’ll be able to make several batches. You could even get together with a few friends who are interested in doing the same and have a little club. The meetings will be so much fun once your batch of beer or wine is ready to be drunk.

If you’re not too keen to brew your own beer at home, there are a few small-scale breweries that can help you. You simply choose the type of beer you would like and the brewery will help you pull it together and store it until it’s ready to be bottled.

Check out The Beer Shed for ideas.

Making your own pickles and preserves is a clever way of not only ensuring produce doesn’t go to waste but also means you’ll have accompaniments that can make simple food delicious. If you can’t use eat all you make yourself, you can always give them as gifts.

20. Café culture
Your tips: Don’t eat out. Don’t have tea and coffee out.

Eating out is expensive but it is nice to treat yourself now and again. Restaurants often have days where they have seniors’ specials or early bird deals that can make dinner out affordable. Also, don’t be afraid to share a dish with a friend and split the cost – portions can be so large that there is often food left over anyway.

You could also start a dinner party or lunch club. Take it in turns each with friends to cook a meal. It doesn’t have to be expensive – a good stew or tasty soup and bread is as enjoyable as a gourmet meal when shared with friends. Or why not consider a progressive dinner? Where you have a different course at a different diner’s home? That way you still get out and about and get a variety of tastes in one meal.

Not having tea and coffee in a café, or on the go is one of the best ways to save money. If it’s a social occasion, meet friends in the park and take your own tea or coffee in a flask. Or, if you enjoy a tea or coffee on your way to work, invest in a traveller cup and make one before you leave home. If you truly miss your morning cappuccino, consider buying a coffee machine that uses coffee pods. Of course there is an initial outlay but it will pay for itself in no time.

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