What is your money mindset for 2014? Is your resolution to make more money but your shoe addiction just keeps that credit card billing climbing? Michelle Hutchison, money expert at one of Australia’s biggest comparison websites finder.com.au, gives her seven tips for saving in 2014.
Right now families across Australia are making resolutions to start 2014 with a clean slate. We are quick to make promises that will see us eating healthier or spending more time with the kids, but what about the resolutions that are supposedly ‘out of our hands’?
It’s easy to blame interest rates and credit card fees for financial woes, but any situation, no matter how bleak, can be improved if you have the right mindset.
Australians owe $48.9 billion in credit card debt, and most of which – $34 billion – is charged interest, according to the latest Reserve Bank figures. And with credit card interest averaging about 17 per cent, many Australians are paying way too much money for the luxury of plastic.
Debt is not something to be feared or disregarded, and in order to get rid of it for good you need to start with the right mindset – a small effort can make a big difference to your financial freedom.
Here is my guide on how to minimise debt and start saving in 2014:
- Envision where you want to be financially. With any goal, even savings goals, it helps to develop a connection with them in order to become emotionally invested in making them happen. Create a visual reminder of your goal – it could be an amount of money you want to save or a picture of a holiday you want to take with your family – and put it in a place where you will see it every day.
- Get a card with a balance transfer offer. Many credit cards offer 0 percent balance transfer rates for up to 12 months when you sign up as a new cardholder. It’s when you transfer your existing debt onto a new card with an introductory rate. It can give you some space to pay off your debt while saving on interest. Just make sure you pay off the debt during the intro period. There are currently 12 no interest balance transfer cards for 12 months on creditcardfinder.com.au. For more information on balance transfer credit cards go to: http://www.creditcardfinder.com.au/balance-transfer-credit-cards.
- Know how you spend. If you have a weakness for shoes, then give yourself a monthly spend limit. If you know you spend all your money buying lunch in cafes, then try bringing your lunch to work and eat lunch out once a week. Once you understand how you spend your money you can identify ways to save.
- Focus on debt rather than your savings. It is best to pay off your ‘bad debts’ first before you start saving. You need to think logically about your finances – your credit card debt will incur more interest than you could earn in a high interest savings account. However, if this is too disheartening, it can be beneficial to put a small amount of money away into savings each month as it can feel better than staring down a tunnel of debt and is a great discipline.
- Start big. If you have multiple cards with different levels of debt, then choose the one with the highest interest and pay that off first. It’s also worth consolidating all your cards onto a balance transfer card and cut up your existing cards. Paying off debt is like a marathon, you need to focus on the small wins along the way to motivate yourself to complete the larger legs of the race still ahead.
- Take advantage of high interest savings accounts. Once you rid your debt or if you want to start saving, compare high interest savings accounts. Many savings accounts offer higher rates of interest for the first few months or bonus interest with conditions. By regularly switching accounts you can take advantage of these introductory offers and meet your savings goals faster. If you have a mortgage add your savings to the loan or offset account because you can save more on interest than in a savings account.
- Refinance your mortgage. If you have a mortgage, there’s a good chance you can reduce your costs and save loads of interest. Standard variable rates are 5.59 percent on average according to finder.com.au but they start from 4.49 percent by Newcastle Permanent. Every 0.25 percentage point discount can save you about $50 per month on a $300,000 home loan so start comparing and consider switching.
- Transfer your addictions. If you are addicted to spending, then you can get addicted to saving. Watching your debt decrease and your savings expand can be very satisfying— even more satisfying than seeing your wardrobe fill up. Give yourself at least three months to start experiencing it.
Michelle Hutchison is the Money Expert at finder.com.au and gets a kick out of helping people find better and save more.