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The start of year is always a good time to look back and reflect. Did you accomplish everything you wanted to achieve? What do you want to set out to do differently next year?
It’s also a prime time to review your finances (cue snores). But seriously. Getting on top of your finances is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions, and who doesn’t want to pad up their bank account? A start of the year financial review is a great way to get moving.
Here are three things you should take a second look at:
Money spent on quality food is never wasted. That said, paying more for ingredients than you need to is just throwing money away. Even if you live in an expensive area (holler) I bet there are ways you can trim your grocery budget further.
If your supermarket chain has a loyalty card, SIGN UP right now. After all, we all have to eat – there’s no getting around it. But don’t stop there – find out where your nearest grocer, butcher, farmer’s market and ethnic supermarket are. Guaranteed savings right there. Sometimes I’m too lazy to make the extra trip to the produce market for fruit and veggies, and I always regret it – prices are lower and the quality and freshness higher. And of course, cooking from scratch more often and reducing your meat intake will help keep costs under control.
Plus I hear you have these amazing things called coupons in the US. It’s a privilege; just think of us poor sods in other countries who don’t have this particular opportunity to shop smart.
I’m a big fan of keeping your monthly ‘nut’ (fixed and essential expenses) low. Are you on the best cable TV/Netflix/Hulu package for you? Do you qualify for ‘low user’ rates with your electricity company, or would a plan with different rates for night/day usage benefit you? Are there extras you can eliminate from your phone and internet bill? Take a close look at your next statement for any fat you can trim. And if there are any charges you aren’t sure about, ASK.
Last summer was a bit of a shocker – our power bills were jacked up because we had the fan on all the time during the heat wave (a relative term here in NZ compared to some other countries, I’ll grant you). We also had some guests who chewed up our internet data allowance (they’re from overseas, and aren’t used to dealing with data caps). This year, it’s different. Our new place is a lot cooler – think cold tiles rather than carpet – and, I think, better ventilated. And unlimited broadband packages are finally mainstream here, so no more blowing our limits.
If there’s one thing I hate paying for, it’s insurance. But insurance has also saved my butt many times, so I suck it up. It’s one of those things you don’t want to get caught without. Nonetheless, you can shave some digits off those bills. Call around other companies and check that you’re getting the best rate possible. And once you’ve ascertained whether to stay with your provider or not, check that you’re getting all the discounts you’re entitled to – package deals with car, contents and property insurance, for example, no-claims bonus, age discount, student discount, etc. If all else fails, and you can afford it in the worst case scenario, increasing the limit you pay in the event of a claim will lower your premiums.
Because we’ve just gotten back to New Zealand after travelling around the world and are essentially starting from scratch in some ways, I’m taking this time to really reassess all our expenses. Restarting our insurance coverage is top of the list!
What parts of your budget could use some closer inspection?
This is a guest post from NZ Muse, a writer from Auckland who’s just completed a six-month trip around the world. She blogs about money, travel, food, and generally bumbling through Gen Y adulthood.