Personal finance tips

couple computing their finances

Make your money work for you with these top 10 personal finance tips.

Money matters have a huge impact on almost all areas of our life. But when you have regular income and expenses, it’s very easy to fall into habits that don’t make the most of your cash.

That’s where personal finance tips come in. By looking at your finances and taking control of them, you can achieve anything from taking more holidays to buying a house or saving for retirement.

1. Create a basic budget

A budget helps you see what money you have coming in and going out of your accounts so that you can develop a better understanding of how you spend and save your money. You can set up a basic budget by looking at the following factors:

  • Your income. This includes your work salary and any assets you have that bring in money, such as shares, investment properties or even interest from savings accounts.
  • Your regular essential expenses. These costs fall into a range of categories, including home, living, transport, loans, insurance and superannuation or retirement contributions.
  • Your non-essential or luxury expenses. These costs are things you could probably do without if you really had to. Think $1,000 shoes, extravagant dinners or cleaning services.

Once you’re aware of these factors – and how much of your income goes towards your different expenses – you can make adjustments to suit specific goals. If drawing up your own budget seems overwhelming (and it often is at first), you can simply enter your details into our Budget Planner and get all the information you need in a few minutes.

2. Pay down credit card debt

The average Australian carries a balance of $4,385 on their credit card or cards, according to data from the Australian Securities & Investments Commission (ASIC). As well as being another monthly expense, this balance means we’re paying hundreds of dollars on interest charges every year.

For example, if you only paid the minimum required each month for this balance and had a card that charged interest at 17% p.a., it would cost you around $702 a year in interest charges. It would also take you 23 years and 4 months to pay off the debt, with interest charges of $5,406 (to the nearest dollar).

But if you made a higher payment of $400 a month on this card, it would take just 12 months to pay it off and cost $414 in interest charges. That’s a saving of $4,992.

So even if $400 a month seems like a lot (and for most of us it is), paying down your credit card balance should be a priority. Tighten up your budget and look at balance transfer credit cards that offer a low introductory rate of interest to help you save money on charges and pay off the debt as quickly as possible. After that, you’ll have more money to use on things you actually want to pay for.

3. Set up a savings plan

approaches to savings, investment and spending Regular savings are an essential part of personal finance management. Savings are important not only for planned events such as holidays or buying a home, but also to help cover the cost of unplanned expenses that come up throughout our lives. Start by opening a savings account that offers a high ongoing interest rate, then consider one of the following transfer options:

  • Set up regular, automatic transfers from your everyday bank account.
  • Manually transfer the money to your savings account when you get paid.
  • Ask your employer if they can transfer a percentage of your salary to your savings account. Note that only some employers will offer payment to multiple accounts, so you may have to check with your payroll department about this option.

Aim to set aside around 10% of your salary and you’ll put in thousands of dollars in savings each year. For example, if you earn $50,000 after tax and you put $420 into savings each month, you would have $5,040 saved by the end of the year – plus interest on the balance. That gives you more money for things beyond the everyday, whenever you need it.

4. Consolidate your accounts

If you have multiple credit cards, savings accounts or even more than one transaction account, you could be losing out on extra cash. Credit cards and transaction accounts may have monthly or annual fees that quickly add up when you have a few to your name. Meanwhile, savings accounts earn interest based on the balance, so splitting your money between accounts leads to lower interest payments.

You can consolidate credit cards using a balance transfer credit card, or by paying them off and cancelling the accounts you don’t want to use anymore. If you have direct debit transactions from a credit card or everyday bank account, you can usually fill out a form to have them transferred to your chosen account (making it easier to close the account you don’t want).

There’s also one simple form for consolidating your superannuation, and for savings accounts it’s just a matter of transferring the balance to your chosen account then closing the old one. As well as saving you money, consolidating your accounts will make it much easier to keep track of your personal finances.

5. Cut costs by comparing products and services

While it’s easy to stick to what you know, comparing different products and services can save you hundreds of dollars every year. For example, let’s say you currently have a platinum rewards credit card with an annual fee of $199. You could easily find a range of credit cards with similar benefits and a more affordable interest rate.

Platinum card annual fees start from around $95, and there are even some competitive reward credit cards that charge no annual fee for life. Switch to one of those and you’ll have an extra $199 to play with every year.

The same goes for other everyday products and services, from home loans to insurance, utilities and even shopping. Taking a bit of time to compare these options will help you get value for money on the things you want and need in your life.
girl went shopping using her credit card

6. Shop strategically

The timing of your purchases can have a big impact on how much you actually spend. For example, if you’re shopping for a big-ticket item such as a fridge or washing machine, waiting for End of Financial Year (EOFY) sales or going to a good factory seconds store could save you hundreds of dollars.

7. Choose one main rewards program

From airlines to supermarkets and credit card providers, there are loyalty programs everywhere. While you can get a wide range of benefits from the rewards on offer, there’s also a risk of spreading yourself too thin if you become a member of several programs.

Put simply: the more rewards points or benefits you can get from one program, the greater the value it will provide you with. For example, if you spend $1,000 on airfares across two frequent flyer programs that offered 1 point per $1, you might earn 500 points for each program. But if you spent this $1,000 with one program, you’d earn 1,000 points.

By focusing your spending on one rewards program, you earn more points that you can then redeem for rewards such as flights, gift cards and merchandise. Having one main rewards program also gives you more time to find out about the ways you can boost your points balance through program partners, credit cards or special promotions.

8. Ask for a pay rise

A pay rise can make a big difference to your disposable income, savings and debts. If your employer has regular performance reviews (and most do), you can use it as an opportunity to review your income.

Consider how you’ve performed overall, as well as specific goals you’ve achieved, and use these examples to justify your request for a raise. If this process seems daunting, check out our guide to asking for a pay rise so you know what to expect and when to broach the subject with your boss.

9. Switch off electronics at home

Does it really matter if you turn off your computer at the powerpoint? Or if you leave your modem on all the time? The short answer is yes.

Government reports have shown that standby power (when your electronics are not being used but are still switched on at the powerpoint) makes up around 10% of your electricity usage. If you’re paying $500 on your quarterly electricity bill, that’s $50 per bill (or $200 a year) that you could save with the flick of a few switches (literally).

10. Review your security information

Quick question: how many accounts do you have with a stored credit card or debit card? From iTunes to Netflix, Google Play, PayPal, Foodora and uber, there are so many different apps and services that encourage or require you to store your account details online.

While there are security measures in place for your cards and these accounts, there is still a risk that some resourceful hacker could gain access to your details. And let’s not forget about old-fashioned card theft. That’s now even more appealing for criminals, because they can use tap and go to make unauthorised payments under $100 on almost any card.

The bottom line is this: your account and card security is incredibly important. While there is protection in place, and often zero liability to help you get money back from fraudulent transactions, it is always better to be safe than sorry. So take the time to regularly review what details you have stored for each account, update your passwords and keep track of the cards in your wallet or those you expect to arrive in the mail.

Whether you’re planning for the future or just want more money to play with now, taking control of your personal finances will help you achieve your goals. These tips give you a great place to start, and a way to move forward through every life stage.

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8 Responses to Personal finance tips

  1. Default Gravatar
    Kimbo | September 25, 2013

    I am travelling with my Husband to Hawaii for a 9 day holiday. What would be the best travel card to use ($USD). Currently have a (AUST) visa card that we can use, however as we will also require cash (especially for all the tipping) we will require to access cash readily. Any suggestions as all travel cards have fee’s to initial load, reload, any transactions at ATM’s and also to cancel the card and to get the remaining cash out?

    • Staff
      Jacob | September 25, 2013

      Hi Kimbo.

      Thanks for your question.

      Please have a look at our travel money guide. Currently all of the travel money cards we compare allow you to load USD onto the cards. You can arrange the cards by their reload fees and ATM withdrawal fees by clicking on the table headings in the travel money section of the guide.

      I hope this helps.

  2. Default Gravatar
    Shannon | July 1, 2013

    Hello,

    Over the past 2 years I have had a couple of different balance transfer credit cards and a GE Credit account and I think these being listed on my credit record are now affecting my ability to obtain another credit card, even though the other cards and GE have now been closed.

    How long should I wait before re-applying at the risk of bring declined for the 3rd time?

    Thank you
    Shannon

    • Staff
      Jacob | July 1, 2013

      Hi Shannon.
      Please have a look at this page on your personal credit file.

      If you’re yet to miss a payment or suffer a credit misadventure, your credit file is generally made up of credit enquiries. When you apply for something like a credit card or a loan, a lender can see that you’ve applied for credit but not whether you’ve been accepted or declined.

      Please speak to the lender directly if you would like to discuss your chances of obtaining credit. If your application has been declined two times already, it’s worth taking the time to sit down with a representative from a lender of your choice and discussing your application.

      I hope this has helped.

      Jacob.

  3. Default Gravatar
    Karen | April 25, 2013

    I am finishing my BA in Communication and PR this coming June. My HECS debt is almost $20,000. I work (still do) part time and put some money away for savings. I’ve made a nice little nest egg if I might add. I am wondering if it’s better to pay some of my HECS debt off or keep saving?

    • Staff
      Jacob | April 29, 2013

      Hi Karen. Thanks for your question. There is no interest charged on your HECS debt; however, it is indexed to keep place with inflation each year. You have to weigh this against the interest you’ll earn on your savings. When you earn over a certain amount each year, your HECS debt is automatically deducted from your pay. You will also be rewarded for your own contributions towards your HECS debt – the government will give you a discount.

      We got in contact with financial Expert, Noel Whittaker who had this to add: ‘There is no interest, as such, charged on a HECS debt, but it increases every year by the CPI which means the effective interest rate would be around 3%. The problem is you may not be earning this much after tax on your savings but this would depend on your taxable income. The simple answer is, if you can earn better than 3% after tax, then don’t pay back the HECS debt.’

      Hope this helps.

      Jacob.

  4. Default Gravatar
    sunny | March 10, 2013

    Hi
    I was on holidays to fiji for 3 months and I had spent a lot of money there even I had withdraw $9000 from my credit card and transfer to my other bank account so now my bank is going to charge me cash advance fees. I did not realise that the fees would be so high.
    Now I have apply online for a personal loan from ANZ bank and it was preliminary approved but I did not receive any calls from them instead I received an email.
    My concern is not only cash advance fees but I have very limited choices because I am not a permanent I am here on 457 long stay work visa.
    Will you please suggest me how to manage please help.

    • Staff
      Marc | March 11, 2013

      Hello Sunny,
      thanks for the question!

      It may be useful to browse the different credit card issuers who will grant credit cards to 457 work visas. Of these cards, one which allows a balance transfer could see the debt able to be paid at a lower rate of interest. This could see the cash advance amount get smaller so you pay less interest.

      I hope this helps,
      Marc.

Credit Cards Comparison

Rates last updated September 26th, 2016
Purchase rate (p.a.) Balance transfer rate (p.a.) Annual fee
Virgin Australia Velocity Flyer Card - Balance Transfer Offer
Enjoy a 0% p.a. balance transfer offer for 18 months and also earn 2 bonus Velocity Points in the first 3 months on everyday spend.
20.74% p.a. 0% p.a. for 18 months $64 p.a. annual fee for the first year ($129 p.a. thereafter) Go to site More info
ME Bank frank Credit Card
Enjoy a low and consistent interest rate on purchases and cash advances, combined with no annual fee.
11.99% p.a. $0 p.a. Go to site More info
St.George Vertigo Visa
Introductory offer of 0% p.a. for 18 months on balance transfers and 1% p.a. for 12 months on purchases, plus a low annual fee.
1% p.a. for 12 months (reverts to 13.24% p.a.) 0% p.a. for 18 months $55 p.a. Go to site More info
HSBC Platinum Credit Card
Receive a full annual fee refund and save $149 if you meet the $6,000 spend requirement. Enjoy a balance transfer offer and platinum card benefits such as complimentary insurances and concierge services.
19.99% p.a. 0% p.a. for 15 months $149 p.a. Go to site More info

* The credit card offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of credit cards CreditCardFinder.com.au has access to track details from and is not representative of all the products available in the market. Products are displayed in no particular order or ranking. The use of terms 'Best' and 'Top' are not product ratings and are subject to our disclaimer. You should consider seeking independent financial advice and consider your own personal financial circumstances when comparing cards.

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