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14 Top Tips to help individuals and families achieve their financial goals

July 14, 2010
By Sjors Brouwer, Family Service Centre, 27 Talbot Street, 03 528 0234

Tips and savings based on real experiences of clients of budget advice.

1. Power bill
Put your power on smoothpay / level pay, and if you can, on online bills. This saves 10-15%, which can be $50-120 per year for a family. Put it on direct debit and you'll always get your discount and don't get into trouble. Also read Trustpower's online tips.

2. Make your own, grow your own
And swap what you are good at making/growing for something you are not good at. Feel confident to ask a friend or neighbour for their free lemons.

3. Know your W&I and IRD entitlements
Sometimes you don't know about all you are entitled to from Work and Income and IRD. More than half of people who work can get money back through a tax refund. There are risk-free ways to check this. Do not pay an agency to check this for you. Do it yourself or ask us for help, for free. Also more than half of those with children can get rebates they do not know of.

4. Get your bank organised
Aren't dishonour fees super annoying? Organise your accounts into a bills account and a spending account. Save $100/yr. Learn ways to save on your bank's transaction fees. Save another $100/yr.

5. Start Kiwisaver today
The commitment can be low, the gains are very high. You double or triple your inputs easily. For children it is even better: the government gives your child $1000 for the cost of a phonecall and a stamp. Start Kiwisaver before it may be cancelled.

6. Debts / cards
Swap your card for a low interest card and then do not use it anymore. Pay off the most expensive debt first. This is the debt with the highest interest-%, not necessarily the one with the highest amount. Take the time to learn how interest works.

7. Food shopping
Plan your supermarket shopping for the week, use a list, compare shops, Use special offers to the full (we have found paracetamol for 99c instead of 1.99: then buy 10 packets!), but do not buy things you normally wouldn't or which will be eaten fast (chocolate).

8. Heating
Firewood bought at normal price is equally efficient as a heatpump. Any plug in electric heater costs 3 to 4 times as much per unit of heat. Use your thermostats and turn heating down well before you go to bed. Portable gas heaters are very unhealthy and not economical. Insulate your house.

9. Reconsider your insurances
Shopping around for the same deal with different companies can save you up to 50%, which can be $450/yr. Also re-consider the value you get out of your insurance. Is my car / contents over-insured? Do I need life insurance, or should I build a nest egg instead? Note: 3rd party insurance is a must! The cost of causing an accident without it is enormous.

10. Save on car costs
Consider downgrading your car. Take roofrack off, drive smoothly, stay under 100, correct tyre pressure, plan rides, share rides,

11. Have an emergency fund
When an emergency strikes, like you loose your job, or the car or the fridge breaks, many people end up with expensive loans or rental agreements. Think ahead and put away some savings for these emergencies, or consider other options, like re-organising your finances, considering a mortgage holiday, or using your support network, before signing expensive agreements with finance or hire companies. We are happy to help.

12. Have a boarder
This can be a stranger, a high school student, or family. Always make sure you have a clear agreement in writing.

13. Phone deals
Both for landlines and for cell phones. Don't feel loyalty to any company, just shop around for the best deal. Never pay the normal toll charge on a landline, but use phone cards instead. You find these e.g. at the internet cafes. Beware they may have hidden charges which also change all the time.

14. Avoid fines/tickets And pay them before they double, triple or worse.

Above all

Your financial health. Dealing with your money is like dealing with your health: if you ignore it, you will get problems.

Attitude and confidence. If your take an active role in your finances, your confidence will grow. Feel free to talk about money, learn about money, ask questions, and above all: don't be afraid to make changes.

A good start is to write everything down. Then you can work through every point you wrote down systematically and decide where to make changes.

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