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A message from Effie

 

Welcome to the Budget Makeover! 

Spending less than you earn and saving regularly – even if it’s a small amount – is the key to building wealth. That’s why giving your budget a makeover is one of the best ways to take better control of your money. 

The Budget Makeover consists of nine simple steps which you can complete at your own pace. Simply log in to your Canstar account each time you want to access the makeover. We have also included tools and resources to help you along the way. 

When you’ve completed all nine steps, thanks to your hard work, you should find that you have more left over each week to put towards your debts, saving or investing. 

Here’s to unlocking your savings potential.

Effie Zahos
Editor-at-Large
Canstar

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Effie Zahos

The Budget Makeover

The first step of this process is to figure out where your money is going and one of the best ways to do this is to build a budget. This is where you’ll need to list all the money that comes in and compare it against all the money that goes out.

It’s best to base this on cold hard facts rather than guessing how much you think you can spend. One advantage of living in the digital age is that if you do a lot of your spending using credit cards, debit cards or EFTPOS then all the information about your spending is at your fingertips. Simply log on to online banking and take a look at where your money has been going over the past few months. 

Things are a little trickier if you are a fan of cash. If that’s the case, it can be a good idea to write down everything you spend for at least a few weeks. 

Make sure you include absolutely everything. Don’t forget the expenses that are not as regular such as car registration or gifts.

You can then use all the data you have found to build a budget. You might like to put pen to paper, use an excel spreadsheet or Canstar’s Budget Planner. There are also plenty of apps that can help

Tools and resources

Budget planner

Calculate a budget based on your income, living expenses, debt repayments, and more.

Now that you have listed all your income and expenses it’s time to step back and look at the numbers. The first thing to do is work out whether or not you have money left over each month. Hopefully the answer will be yes. but even if it is no don’t despair –  this makeover will help you find ways to cut costs and put your budget back into positive territory.

Next, take a look at your expenses for any areas of spending that jump out at you as a potential ‘problem’. For example, were you surprised at how much you spend on takeaway meals or are your grocery bills higher than you expected? If yes, think about ways you may be able to reduce these expenses. 

At this stage it can also be a good idea to set a formula for your spending. This helps you estimate how much of your income you should allocate towards different types of expenses. A popular option is the 70:20:10 plan. 

This means you’d divide your take-home pay into: 

  • 70% for everyday living costs such as rent or home loan, utilities, food, clothing and transport. •20% for saving. 
  • 10% for splurging.

You can play around with the percentages to find the formula that best suits you. 

If you have a mortgage there’s a good chance that your home loan repayments will account for a large chunk of your spending. In this step you should take a closer look at your home loan to work out if you are in fact on a good deal. 

Start by finding out what rate you are paying on your mortgage. You can then use our comparison tables to find out if there may be cheaper options available. Let’s say you have a $400,000 home loan and are paying 3.13%pa interest on a 30-year loan. Switching to a loan charging 2.34%pa could save you $168 in repayments each month.

Keep in mind that cheaper doesn’t always mean best so make sure you are getting the same features for the price. Even if there are better deals, it could be a good idea to call your existing lender first to give them an opportunity to match the offer. 

If you have no luck, you may want to consider refinancing. It can pay to do a break-even analysis. Add up all the switching costs and divide this by your monthly savings. If, for example, it costs you $1000 to move but you would save $100 a month in repayments, your break cost is 10 months, meaning it will take you 10 months to recoup the cost of refinancing. 

Tools and resources

Canstar’s tools are free, easy to use and can help you with this step. When using our comparison tables, we offer you the choice to either narrow your search to see results that feature products from our referral partners and can click through immediately or to see all products we compare. To view all the products on our database you will need to untick the box.

Consumers can choose to click on these links should they wish to get more information or apply for a product. We may receive a commission or fee when this happens.

Our product ratings are never influenced by any commercial relationships that we have. Generally we sort our comparison tables so that you can see the highest rated products first (unless otherwise stated in the important information). You can then tailor the results further by changing the sort and filter options according to your preferences.

Before you elect to terminate or modify existing lending arrangements, it is recommended that you consider all associated application costs, timing and impact of these changes on wider financial arrangements and your personal circumstances. Early termination of a fixed-term, fixed-interest loan may result in substantial break fees, as well as other costs.

Compare home loans

There are lots of regular bills that most of us have to pay each month that take up a fair chunk of the household budget and energy bills are a big one.

Start by grabbing your power bills and taking a good look at them. It might not be the most exciting task but it can be very useful and might even help you find ways to save money. Pay attention to your usage and the rates you are paying. You should also find out what type of plan you are currently on – is it a default or market contract for example? 

Now that you have all the information about your bills and usage it’s time to shop around to see if you may be able to get a better deal. You can use our comparison table to find out if there are cheaper options available. If you find a better deal it can be worth talking to your existing provider first. They may be able to match or even better the offer which will save you having to switch. If they don’t though then you may consider taking your business elsewhere.

Finally, think about the changes you may be able to make around the home to help you save that little bit more. Some – such as installing solar panels and insulating your home – may cost you money upfront but can help reduce your bills in the long term. Others – such as closing doors and curtains and switching appliances off at the wall – won’t cost you a cent. Every little bit will count. 

Tools and resources

Canstar’s tools are free, easy to use and can help you with this step. When using our comparison tables, we offer you the choice to either narrow your search to see results that feature products from our referral partners and can click through immediately or to see all products we compare. To view all the products on our database you will need to untick the box.

Consumers can choose to click on these links should they wish to get more information or apply for a product. We may receive a commission or fee when this happens.

Our product ratings are never influenced by any commercial relationships that we have and we order our comparison tables so that you can see our highest rated products first. You can then tailor the results further by changing the sort and filter options according to your preferences.

Compare electricity and gas plans

Insurance is one of the things we pay for in the hope that we never have to use it! It’s also one of those regular expenses that can quickly add up with many of us having cover for our car (or cars), our home and contents, our health and even our life. Your goal will be to get the right balance – having adequate cover without paying any more than you have to.

Put together a list of all the insurance you have – including car, home and/or contents, health, life, income protection etc. Don’t forget to include any life and income protection you have as part of your super fund. When you’re compiling this information also make a note of the premium you are paying, any excess that will apply if you need to make a claim and the amount you’re insured for (where applicable). 

You can then take a deep dive into your policies. The first thing you are trying to do is make sure you have enough cover and that you are not underinsured. If you find that there are any gaps you may want to consider increasing your level of cover. It’s also important to read your product disclosure statement to get a better understanding of what you’re covered for – and just as importantly what you’re not covered for.

Now that you have a better idea of what your current policy looks like and your ideal level of cover it’s time to compare policies to see if you can find the insurance you need at a better price. You may also want to weigh up whether or not you’re better off having life insurance in or out of your super. Remember you want value – not just the cheapest price – so make sure you pay attention to the fine print. It can also pay to get in touch with your current insurer to see if they can match or better any offers. 

Tools and resources

Canstar’s tools are free, easy to use and can help you with this step. When using our comparison tables, we offer you the choice to either narrow your search to see results that feature products from our referral partners and can click through immediately or to see all products we compare. To view all the products on our database you will need to untick the box.

Consumers can choose to click on these links should they wish to get more information or apply for a product. We may receive a commission or fee when this happens.

Our product ratings are never influenced by any commercial relationships that we have. Generally we sort our comparison tables so that you can see the highest rated products first (unless otherwise stated in the important information). You can then tailor the results further by changing the sort and filter options according to your preferences.

If you are seeking to replace an insurance policy, you should consider your personal circumstances, including continuing the existing cover until the replacement policy is issued and cover confirmed. Your current policy may have different features to products currently on the market. Please consider what features are right for you when comparing insurance products and refer to the provider for further details on a policy.

Compare car insurance

Compare home insurance

Compare health insurance

Compare life insurance

Compare income protection insurance

Compare landlord insurance

A lot of us can’t live without our mobile phones and the internet and streaming services like Netflix and Stan also have many of us hooked but the costs can add up.

Start by gathering all your telco bills including home internet, any mobile phone services and a list of any streaming subscriptions. Write down how much you are paying and what you’re getting for your money, for example how much data is included on your home internet and mobile plan? The hardest part is probably working out how much data you actually need both at home and on your mobile. If you haven’t got enough it can get very expensive but too much and you may be paying a premium for data you’re not using. 

When you have a better understanding of what you need then it may be time to shop around to find out what else is on offer and if may be able to find a better value option. With your home internet it’s not just the data that counts but the speed is also an important factor to consider. As for mobile plans you may need to weigh up whether a postpaid or prepaid plan is better value. Keep in mind that cheapest won’t necessarily be the best – think about how you use your phone and how much data you generally use before choosing a plan.  

Making sure you have the right plan is one way to cut the cost of your phone and internet bills but there are other ways you may be able to save money. For example you may be able to get a discount by bundling services with a single provider. And you should keep an eye out for hidden fees that could increase the cost, for example you may be charged extra to receive a paper bill. With streaming subscriptions one obvious way to pay less is to reduce the number of subscriptions you have on the go but you could also cut costs by sharing with family or friends or taking advantage of free trials. 

Tools and resources

Canstar’s tools are free, easy to use and can help you with this step. When using our comparison tables, we offer you the choice to either narrow your search to see results that feature products from our referral partners and can click through immediately or to see all products we compare. To view all the products on our database you will need to untick the box.

Consumers can choose to click on these links should they wish to get more information or apply for a product. We may receive a commission or fee when this happens.

Our product ratings are never influenced by any commercial relationships that we have. Generally we sort our comparison tables so that you can see the highest rated products first (unless otherwise stated in the important information). You can then tailor the results further by changing the sort and filter options according to your preferences.

Compare mobile phone plans

Compare NBN plans

Expenses are just one part of the budget equation. Increasing the amount of money coming in can be another way to help give your budget a makeover.

There are a few options you may want to explore to make some extra cash. An obvious one is asking for a pay rise. It’s essential to go in prepared. Have a clear idea of your market worth and make sure you can demonstrate how you have gone above and beyond your job description.

You may also want to consider taking up a side hustle to make some money on the side. Maybe you have storage space you could rent out or if you’re an animal lover you could make money pet sitting. 

Now that you have completed all the previous steps it’s time to revisit your budget. Update the budget you created in Step 1 to incorporate any changes to your income and any savings you made by looking at your expenses. You should find that thanks to all your hard work you have more money left over each week – calculate exactly how much that is.

Tools and resources

Budget planner

Calculate a budget based on your income, living expenses, debt repayments, and more.

Now that you know what money you have left over it’s important to set your financial goals and put a plan in place to help you achieve them.

Having goals is a vital part of becoming financially successful – particularly when it comes to saving money. Having something tangible in mind such as a house deposit or an overseas holiday can really help you stay motivated. Consider breaking it down to short-, medium- and long-term goals. And if you have a partner and/or kids get them involved too as it will help if you are all on the same page. 

When you know what you want to achieve then it’s time to put your plan in action. Work out exactly how much money you’ll need to reach your goal and how long you have to save it. Canstar’s Savings plan calculator can help you work out how much you need to put aside regularly to get your goal amount in the timeframe. 

It’s important to make the saving process as seamless as possible. Arrange for the amount you need to put towards your goal to be automatically transferred to a separate account before you get your hands on it. 

Tools and resources

Savings plan calculator

Calculate how much you need to save regularly to reach your goals.

Important Information

  1. This advice is general and has not taken into account your objectives, financial situation, or needs. It is not personal advice. Consider whether this advice is right for you, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs. You may need financial advice from a suitably qualified adviser. Consider the product disclosure statement (PDS) before making any financial decision. For more information, read Canstar’s Financial Services and Credit Guide (FSCG), and read our detailed disclosureimportant notes and liability disclaimer.
  2. Canstar is an information provider and in giving you product information Canstar is not making any suggestion or recommendation about a particular credit product or loan. If you decide to apply for a credit product or loan, you will deal directly with a credit provider, and not with Canstar. Rates and product information should be confirmed with the relevant credit provider. For more information, read the credit provider’s key facts sheet and other applicable loan documentation for that product. Read the Comparison Rate Warning.
  3. Canstar is an information provider and in giving you product information Canstar is not making any suggestion or recommendation about a particular insurance product. If you decide to apply for an insurance product, you will deal directly with an insurance provider, and not with Canstar. Premiums and product information should be confirmed with the relevant insurance provider. For more information, read the product disclosure statement (PDS), Canstar’s Financial Services and Credit Guide (FSCG), detailed disclosure, important notes and liability disclaimer.The inclusions mentioned represent a selection of what is covered at the time of writing. Additional terms and conditions may apply to different features. Additional fees may apply to the product. Please ensure that you read the product disclosure statement to determine all the current options and inclusions for the product you are considering.
  4. Before you elect to terminate or modify existing lending arrangements, it is recommended that you consider all associated fees and application costs, as well as the timing and impact these changes could have on your wider financial arrangements and personal circumstances.
  5. If you are seeking to replace an insurance policy, you should consider your personal circumstances, including continuing the existing cover until the replacement policy is issued and cover confirmed. Your current policy may have different features to products currently on the market. Please consider what features are right for you when comparing insurance products and refer to the provider for further details on a policy.