If you spend a little bit of time on money matters each day then you can whip your finances into shape in no time. I have compiled a list of 31 tasks that you can tick off over 31 days to help you take control of your money. Some will take longer than others and you don’t have to stick to this order, but hopefully you’ll find that at the end of 31 days you have a better understanding of your finances.
Day 1: Look for lost money
Let’s kick things off with an easy one – look for ‘lost’ money. There are a few different types of ‘lost’ money. One is unclaimed money from lost bank accounts, shares, investments and life insurance policies. Generally, this money becomes lost when you move house and forget to update your details with a financial institution or company. You can find unclaimed money using the ‘Unclaimed money search’ tool on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) MoneySmart website. Simply enter your name and see what turns up. Details on how to claim are on the site.
Other types of lost money include money from deceased estates, lost share dividends, salaries and wages, cheques, over-payments, proceeds of sale and more. This is generally held by state governments. The contact details are in the table below.
Contacts for money held my state governments
|State/territory||Deceased estate||Dividends and other money|
|ACT||Public Trustee and Guardian||Public Trustee and Guardian|
|NSW||NSW Trustee and Guardian||Revenue NSW|
|Northern Territory||Public Trustee||Territory Revenue Office|
|Queensland||Public Trustee||Public Trustee|
|South Australia||Public Trustee||Department of Treasury and Finance|
|Tasmania||Public Trustee||Department of Treasury and Finance|
|Victoria||State Trustees||State Revenue Office|
|Western Australia||Public Trustee||Department of Treasury|
Day 2: Unsubscribe from email lists that tempt you to spend
If you are subscribed to emails from some of your favourite stores you may find that they tempt you to spend money. For example, you might see a dress you love but don’t really need or you might find an offer of 30% off hard to resist. Take the time to go through your inbox and unsubscribe from these emails.
Day 3: Work on a budget
Having a budget in place is the best way to take control of your money, so if you don’t have one then today is the day to change that. And even if you do have one now may be a good time to revisit it to make sure it accurately reflects your current situation.
So make a list of all the money that comes in and compare it against all the money that goes out. Your budget can help you work out exactly where your money is going and you’ll also be able to identify areas where you may be able to make some savings.
→ Unlock your savings potential and sign up for your Budget Makeover with Effie Zahos
Day 4: Look for a better deal on your mobile plan
Take a look at how much you’re currently paying for your mobile plan and what you’re getting for your money. Then take a look at what is on offer from other providers to see how your stacks up. If you find a better deal then it could be worth making the switch and save yourself some cash. Just make sure you choose the right plan for you, based on how much data you use.
Day 5: Start a money challenge
From the no-spend challenge to the Coke bottle challenge there are plenty of options out there that can help you give your savings a kick-start. Pick one that appeals to you the most and give it a go.
Related story: Money-saving challenges
Day 6: Look for a better rate on your savings
Let’s face it – rates are at historic lows so getting a great return on your savings is not easy. That doesn’t mean you should settle for a rate of 0.01%pa. Check out what rates are on offer on savings accounts. You might be able to get a higher rate if you meet certain conditions, such as making a deposit each month and no withdrawals. If you are willing to lock your savings away for a while you may also consider a term deposit.
Day 7: Make a meal plan for the week ahead
Meal planning can be a great way to save money on your groceries and it can also help you resist the urge to order takeaway simply because you have no idea what to eat. It can be a good idea to get the family involved to make sure that everyone has a say on what will be on the menu for the week. You can then buy everything in the one visit to the supermarket, which will help reduce impulse buying that may come with multiple visits during the week.
Day 8: Look for lost super
On day one you looked for lost money but today you will look for something else that can get ‘lost’ – superannuation. To track down any lost super you will need a myGov account linked to the ATO. When you access that you’ll be able to see the details of all your current super funds including any ‘lost’ super accounts. If you find any lost super, you’ll need to decide what you want to do with it. For example, will you consolidate it with another fund? Make sure you consider insurance you have in the fund before closing an account.
Day 9: Set financial goals
Today’s task involves sitting down and thinking about your financial future. Think about what money goals you would like to achieve in the short-, medium- and long-term. For example, short term you may want a new TV, medium-term might be a car, and long-term might be house deposit or your kids’ education. Having goals can help you be a more successful saver. You’re more likely to spend less and put money aside if you have something tangible in mind.
Day 10: Look for a better deal on your home loan
Do you know what rate you are paying on your mortgage? Ideally, your rate should start with a two, although you may be able to get a loan with a one at the front. Find out exactly how much you are paying on your loan and take a look to find out if you may be able to get a better deal.
Make sure you are comparing apples with apples and that you are not sacrificing any important features to get that price.
You may want to talk to your lender first to see if they can match that rate, therefore saving you the hassle of switching. If you opt to refinance, though, make sure you take into consideration any fees involved in switching.
Day 11: Create a money mindfulness practice
Understanding your money mindset – that is, why you do the things you do when it comes to money – can be just as important as what you actually do with your money. Think about some sort of routine you could implement that could help you master your money mindset. For example, if you’re a big impulse spender then you might decide that you will start using a 48-hour wait time before you buy something. Basically, if you see something you like you can’t buy it straight away. You need to wait two days and if you still want it you can buy it.
Or, if you feel like you are always spending too much then check your bank accounts each day to keep track of your money and make sure you are not going overboard.
Day 12: Look for a better deal on your internet plan
The average Australian household pays $69 per month for their NBN plan, according to Canstar Blue. How does your plan stack up against that? Even if it is on par, it may be possible to get a better price. Think about how much data you really need at home and choose a plan accordingly.
Day 13: Have a fiscal date night or family money lunch
If you want to achieve your financial goals it’s vital that everyone is on the same page. If you’re coupled up then set up a date night to talk money and make a plan for the future. If you have kids, then it’s important to get them involved too. Arrange a lunch to chat about what everyone would like to achieve and what you can all do to get there. If everyone is involved then they will feel more accountable.
You may also like: 5 money conversations to have with your partner
Day 14: Prep meals you can freeze
Today is a big cooking day. Set aside a good few hours to make meals that are suitable for freezing – think bolognese, curries, soups and stews. You should be able to find plenty of inspiration online with suitable recipes. Having a stash of meals ready to defrost can be great for those times when you’re just too tired to cook. And it will mean you don’t end up ordering UberEats.
Day 15: Find out if you’re eligible for ‘free’ money
The government offers a range of payments to Aussies to help with the costs of raising kids, paying for health-related expenses and to support those looking for work. You can use the ‘Payment and service finder’ tool to check if you are entitled to any payments. You will be asked a series of questions and it will show you the payments you might be eligible for and an estimate of the amount. You will then need to formally apply for any payments.
There are also a range of payments offered by various states and territories. Here are some useful links to help you.
ACT: Savings Finder
NSW: Savings Finder
Queensland: Smart Savings
South Australia: Concessions and Grants
Tasmania: Discounts & concessions
Victoria: Concessions & benefits
Western Australia: ConcessionsWA
Related article: Free money: Over $4,400 in rebates, concessions and payments
Day 16: Calculate the value of your time
They say that time is money, so do you know how much your time is worth? Take your weekly or fortnightly salary (after tax) and divide it by the number of hours you work in that period. So, let’s say you bring home $1,000 a week and work 38 hours, then your time is worth about $26 an hour. Thinking about it this way can help you make smarter decisions about how to spend your time and money.
For example, if something you want to buy costs $300 that means you would have to work 11.5 hours to pay for it? Is that worth it? You might also think about the value of your time when outsourcing a job. For example, if someone is charging $40 an hour to mow your lawn, you might decide it is better to do it yourself.
Day 17: Look for a better deal on your car insurance
Today’s task is to shop around for a better deal on your car insurance. You might be surprised at the potential savings. Canstar crunched the numbers and found that the difference between the average car insurance premium for a 30-49 year old in NSW and the lowest is $573 a year.
Most insurers let you get a quote online, so it’s a matter of taking the time to do that to see if you can get a better price. Remember though, don’t choose on price alone. Take a good look at the policy to make sure it has all the cover you need.
Day 18: Download an app that can help you save money
From finding the cheapest petrol prices to looking for specials at the supermarket there are a range of apps that can help you save money. Check out some of the apps on offer and download one of them. Be sure to make a conscious effort to use it and hopefully you’ll see the savings start to flow.
Day 19: Check your credit score
It can be handy to know what your credit score is. It gives lenders a general picture of how trustworthy you are as a borrower, but even if you are not planning on applying for a loan it is good to know how you rate. If your credit score is not as good as you would like you may be able to take steps to improve it.
It is free to check your credit score with a number of online providers. Using Canstar’s credit score checker, you can check your credit score once each month.
Day 20: Look for a better deal on your home insurance
As with your car insurance, which you looked at on day 17, it’s important to shop around for your home insurance. Canstar found that the difference between the average home and contents insurance premium in NSW and the lowest was $639 a year.
Spend some time online getting quotes to see if you can find a better deal. Again, make sure you are not compromising the level of cover to get a better price. Check that the cheaper policy has all the inclusions you need.
Day 21: List five things around the house for sale
As the saying goes “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. Take a look around your house for things that you no longer want or need and get the kids to do the same. Aim to list at least five items for sale – it might be clothes, books, homewares or even furniture. You can use Facebook marketplace, gumtree or eBay to sell your wares.
Day 22: Update your passwords
Many of us use the same password for a range of financial accounts or have not changed the password for years. To better protect your accounts, your task for today is to update all your passwords on any financial accounts. This might be your online banking but don’t forget your super fund and any other investment accounts.
Use a different password for each account and make them as complex as you can. The tricky part is trying to remember them though. If you want the easy way out consider using a password manager such as LastPass. They let you store all your passwords in one place and encrypt your data and passwords. You’ll only need to remember one password – the one to log on to the service.
Day 23: Calculate your net worth
It’s important to take a look at what you own and any outstanding debts you may have to get an idea of where you sit financially. To do this you can complete a ‘statement of position’ which essentially involves listing your assets and liabilities. You’ll then be able to see your net worth – that is, do you own more than you owe or vice versa.
Day 24: Look for a better deal on your health insurance
With health insurance premiums set to rise in April, now is a great time to review your health insurance. Shop around to see if you can get a better price for the same level of cover.
If you have hospitals and extras you don’t have to have them with the same insurer. You may be able to mix and match – use one provider for hospital cover and another for extras – and save. Also make sure you are getting the most from your extras. If not, you may be better off with just hospital cover.
Day 25: Cancel any unused subscriptions
Netflix, Stan, Spotify, HelloFresh, your gym membership … these monthly subscriptions can really add up. Make a list of all your subscriptions and think hard about whether you really need them all. Check your account statements as well to make sure you have not missed any. If there are subscriptions you are no longer getting any real value from then it could be time to ditch them and save some cash.
Day 26: Look for a better deal on your energy plans
Electricity and gas bills can certainly add up to be a big expense over the year. If you’re not on a contract, then think about shopping around for a better deal. Energy providers often have enticing deals for new customers. Getting a discount can be as simple as setting up a direct debit, bundling your services, going paperless or just paying on time.
Day 27: Calculate your retirement number
You need to think about how much money you would like to have to retire. There are three main factors to consider when working out this number – the annual cost of your dream retirement lifestyle, when you want to retire and your life expectancy. If you can get a good balance between the age pension and money in your super fund, then the amount may not be as high as you think.
Day 28: Set up a binding death nomination
Your superannuation is treated differently to the rest of your estate when you die. Even if you have listed someone as a beneficiary the fund’s trustees can still opt to give it to another party. To make sure your super goes to the person you want you may want to set up a binding death nomination. Your super fund should be able to provide you with the relevant paperwork to get that sorted. Make sure you follow the rules about who you can nominate. Nominations generally need to be reviewed every three years.
Day 29: Take a look at your personal insurance
Today’s task is to look at your personal insurance – life insurance and income protection. It’s important to make sure you have enough cover. You may assume you have cover as part of your super but that won’t necessarily be enough. Ideally the amount should be enough to pay out any debt such as the mortgage, cover funeral costs and ensure the family has sufficient ongoing cash flow.
You should also make sure you have adequate income protection insurance, which generally covers you for a maximum of 75% of your salary, if you can’t work due to sickness, accident or injury. Personal insurance can be complex so it may be worth getting professional advice.
Day 30: Create an important financial information file
Put together a file that includes all your important financial information. Make sure it is all in the one place so that it is easy to find. And if you are part of a couple ensure that both of you know where everything is stored. Include details of all your super funds, bank accounts, investments, loan documents, insurance and also your will.
Day 31: Listen to a money-related podcast
Let’s finish off with an easy one – listen to a money-related podcast. Podcasts can be a great way to learn more about different personal finance topics and there are plenty to choose from. It’s a matter of finding one that most interests you.
Some popular options include The Property Couch hosted by property experts Bryce Holdaway and Ben Kingsley, She’s On The Money hosted by financial planner Victoria Devine and The Australian Finance Podcast.
You may also like: 10 Investment Podcasts For Australian Investors
Cover image source: Pasuwan (Shutterstock.com)
The comparison table below shows some of the savings accounts on Canstar’s database for a regular saver in NSW. The results shown are based on an investment of $100,000 in a personal savings account and are sorted by Star Rating (highest to lowest), then provider name (alphabetically). For more information and to confirm whether a particular product will be suitable for you, check upfront with your provider and read the Product Disclosure Statement or other terms and conditions before making a decision.
About Effie Zahos
Canstar’s Editor-at-Large, Effie Zahos, has more than two decades of experience helping Aussies make the most of their money. Prior to joining Canstar, Effie was the editor of Money Magazine, having helped establish it in 1999. She is an author and one of Australia’s leading personal finance commentators, appearing regularly on TV and radio.
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