Luxury items 

Interest rates, energy prices and inflation are all on the rise. Here’s how our readers manage the cost of living

The cost of living is on the rise and your hip pocket may feel emptier than usual, so we asked our readers to share their tips for coping with rising expenses.

Here are some of the ways they’re cutting expenses, plus expert money-saving tips.

Click on the links below to jump straight to a question or read on to learn more.

How to spend less on food?

With inflation and wild weather impacting food prices, it might be time to ditch some luxuries and change the menu.

Buying seasonal products is not only economical, but also healthier. (Pexels: Michael Burrows)

Here are some expert tips for saving while shopping:

  • Buy seasonal products
  • Buy meat closer to its best before date and freeze it
  • Buy staples in bulk when they’re on sale
  • Buy only what you need

And don’t forget to bring your own bag while you’re there – every penny counts.

Here’s what our readers told us they did.

“Plan your weekly meals and stick to your shopping list. Be flexible and buy items that are better value on the day and cut back on luxury items such as soft drinks and chocolate. Be sensible in your purchases. ” — Katrina, New South Wales

“I have cut back on meat meals (now only once a week) in the weekly store, opting for beans or vegetable soup as a replacement meal. Also, I only buy one or two coffees a week, I make my own snacks (like Anzac Biscuits) and take lunch to work if I’m in the office, I don’t buy takeout at all, and I limit drinks and meals to once fortnightly.” —Kerri, Vic

“Too many people think that chickpeas, assorted dried beans and even lentils are canned. If you buy dry, cook a quantity (not the lentils, they cook quickly) and freeze them in bags. more likely to use the amount required – a handful, half a tin, one and a half tin equivalents when not limited to one-tin quantities.” — Margaret, New South Wales

Should I start planting now?

If you have access to a backyard or garden, Victoria’s Tony suggests putting your green fingers to the test.

“Use the space on your property to grow vegetables and other foods.”

Hazel from New South Wales shared her journey growing food in a small space.

“I’m starting a garden to grow vegetables from seed. I’m in a small block… in a ground floor flat so I have the garden bed under my window. If it’s not not trashed by “people”, so I will enlarge it. It will make a big difference in my fresh food intake and it’s cheaper than buying seedlings. I don’t know which of the two is better, but both would give people fresh vegetables.

And if you don’t have the luxury of space, horticulturist Phil Murray says a polystyrene box or bag of potting soil will do.

To get started, he recommends these easy-to-grow plants:

  • Tomatoes
  • peppers
  • Shallots
  • Salad
  • Beans
  • Herbs

Elderly retiree Adrienne from Queensland has shared her success story.

“I have bought a mini greenhouse and will try to grow lettuces and tomatoes. I already grow passion fruit, mangoes and fresh herbs. As an elderly pensioner, I hope this will help reduce the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables and organic growing, will be much healthier for me.I have also planted pineapple tops and so far I have harvested four (delicious) pineapples over a period of three months. The sense of accomplishment is also a huge plus.

How can I save electricity?

A woman puts clothes in a front-loading washing machine
A hot water cycle can use up to 10 times more energy than a cold wash.(Pexels: Sarah Chai)

The current energy crisis and calls to save energy under the threat of blackouts have led many people to review their energy consumption.

Here are some simple things you can do around your home to reduce energy consumption:

  • Adjust your temperature settings
  • Run your laundry in cold water whenever possible
  • Install energy efficient appliances or lights
  • Take advantage of natural sunlight and block drafts in your home

Be careful of devices that consume electricity even when not in use.

Experts also suggest searching the market for better energy deals and switching providers.

Here are some creative ways others have reduced their energy use.

“Save on electricity costs by running the washing machine and dishwasher when rates should be lower.” —Kaz, Vic

“Investing in better insulation in homes – double glazed windows, ducted heating and using our daylight electricity through solar energy.” — Kristy, New South Wales

“I use an electric blanket when I watch TV every night. It costs $50 and saves a ton on the electric bill.” —Rae QLD

“Solar diverter to send excess solar to the water heater. Installed one of these to minimize export to the grid when not wanted by the grid. Avoid using coal fed by off-peak hours for water heating. Makes economic sense if your feed-in tariff is lower than your off-peak tariff and makes environmental sense by avoiding coal power.” — Brian, New South Wales

It’s good to know your options too if your energy bill is blowing your wallet.

Does working remotely save money?

“As some companies try to increase the number of working days relative to working time, it is in the employee’s financial interest to work from home, given that the cost of fuel increases each week (and c “is also a significant environmental impact). We have proven that we are at least as productive at home.” — Heidi, TAS

Heidi makes a good point.

Removing the commute from the equation means saving time, transportation costs like fares and fuel, and even that morning cup of coffee.

But given that tax deductions for working from home are set to end in June and electricity prices have risen, it’s hard to say which is cheaper.

Work at home
Many organizations are offering a hybrid model after the pandemic, allowing for a combination of office and home working.(Pexels: Cliff Cabin)

Whether you’re working remotely or back in the office, there are always ways to reduce your travel costs.

“I now cycle to work every day, saving me about $500 a month (including downtown parking fees).” —Brett, SA

“Every time I leave the house I wonder if I NEED to go out or if I can make other arrangements. I also plan to use public transport – if I don’t need to get around in town, I will work from home.” —Lisa, Vic

Others have changed their housing situation.

“Moved in with relative as an adult.” —Perry, Vic

“We’ve deliberately downsized to be closer to public transport and shopping and use the car a lot less now. We’re also thinking twice about long overseas flights.” — Anke, New South Wales

How can I save money without trying?

Money experts say it can be as simple as assessing your expenses first, before moving on to decisions like eliminating memberships and renegotiating bills.

You can even review big commitments such as mortgage payments and consider doing the following:

  • Make refunds every fortnight
  • Use an Offsetting Account to Pay Off Variable Home Loans
  • Find the best deal with the lowest price
  • Make additional payments in advance, if possible
  • Repay your capital and interest at the same time

Here’s how some readers changed their lifestyle to live on a budget.

“I switched to growing and making more home-cooked meals, broths, cookies, muffins and bread to reduce costs and plastic waste. I also put a bike and a trailer on hold to reduce the use of my car when I go to buy the rest of the groceries.” —Kate, Queensland

“I’m a single mom and have raised 3 wonderful children who are now all college graduates and have found jobs in their chosen professions. We NEVER had the internet at home. I don’t I just couldn’t afford it, so my three kids had to be resourceful and use the uni library, cafes, friends’ houses, USB sticks to download articles, essays etc and use uni printers etc. YES, it was another stressor and extra effort in their already busy lives. However, it is doable. So to all those parents who are city dwellers, PLEASE don’t think that it’s the ONLY solution. I am now the proud mother of an accountant, a veterinarian and a lawyer.” —Megan, South Africa

“I switched to another internet plan and saved over $600 a year. I canceled movie channels on pay TV and saved $120 a year. I gave up landline and I saved $360 a year. I also started buying specials at the supermarket.” — Lisa, New South Wales

“A restaurant meal is a picnic or a barbecue at the beach or in a park with the family or with a group of friends. The children don’t care and have a lot more space to play. The holidays are a camping trip.Not a plane trip.There are many interesting sights and places that you can visit without traveling far.Entertainment can be watching a DVD or visiting friends or family. family, to go to free public entertainment and free places.—Ian, NT

“A few years ago when I moved into my current home, I planned to reduce my costs and carbon footprint by blowing insulation into my exterior walls. I also replaced all my appliances with electrical appliances and chose the most energy efficient models I could afford.. From my experience at a previous property I concluded that solar hot water was a waste of space and time so I opted for…an electric induction cooktop and split system heating and cooling solution that could meet all of my home’s heating needs meant I could shut off the gas supply.” —Geoffrey, Vic

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