Coronavirus: 10 ways to make the most of staying at home

Editor-at-Large · 30 March 2020
Coronavirus has turned most of our lives upside down. Staying home is just one way COVID19 has affected us. You can use the extra time to do things that may help you improve your finances in the future. Here are some tips.

There’s no doubt coronavirus has hit many people hard. Some people have lost their jobs or been stood down. Most of us are staying at home to try to flatten the curve. This can be tough but you can take advantage of this time to do things that may help you improve your financial knowledge or save some money.

We have put together this list of 10 ways to make the most of your time at home that can help your finances.

1. Listen to money-related podcasts

Podcasts can be a great way to learn more about different personal finance topics. Whether it is budgeting, saving, property, superannuation or investing there’s bound to be a podcast out there for you.

One to check out is The Property Couch hosted by property experts Bryce Holdaway and Ben Kingsley. Despite the word property in the name this podcast looks at more than just that. The duo also cover money management, finance and investing. There are often special guests which have included share expert Roger Montgomery and Shane Oliver.

Another popular personal finance podcast is She’s On The Money hosted by financial planner Victoria Devine who describes herself as a “millennial money expert”. Some of the topics that have been covered include credit card traps, financial abuse, superannuation, pay rises and buying a home.

The Australian Finance Podcast is also worth a listen. In the first 10 episodes hosts Owen and Kate offer an introduction to key topics such as budgeting, debt, super, insurance, investing in shares, property, ETFs and funds. In later episodes they cover subjects such as tax, how to read the financial news, ethical investing and planning for retirement.

For more podcast inspiration take a look at this article: 9 Investment Podcasts For Australian Investors.

2. Shop around to make sure you are on the best deals

Now is the perfect time to shop around to make sure you have the best deal on all your regular expenses – and I do mean everything. This includes home loans, credit cards, car insurance, home insurance, health insurance, life insurance, electricity and gas, mobile phone plan, internet etc.

Make a list of all your regular bills, how much you’re paying and what you are getting for that money and start comparing prices.

It’s important to remember that cheapest is not necessarily the best – make sure you are getting value for money.

If you do find a better deal though it’s always worth chatting to your existing provider as well as they may be able to match any better price which could help save you the hassle of switching.


Source: hidesy (Shutterstock)

3. Do some reading on money and investing

Sticking to the theme of increasing your financial knowledge from tip 1 you can add reading a few finance books to your to-do list. There are a number of classics you may want to consider such as The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham, The Richest Man in Babylon by George S Clason and Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

If you are looking for something more current and Australian then you may consider Scott Pape’s The Barefoot Investor, Making Money Made Simple by Noel Whittaker, The $1000 Project by Canna Campbell and The Armchair Guide to Property Investing by Ben Kingsley and Bryce Holdaway (the hosts of the Property Couch podcast mentioned earlier). And then there’s Canstar’s own Effie Zahos’ book A Real Girl’s Guide to Money (which I edited).

For a list of more books check out this article: 4 epic reads to kickstart your finances.

4. Look for lost money

There is around $1.1 billion in lost shares, bank accounts and life insurance according to MoneySmart. “This money becomes lost when you move house and forget to update your details with a financial institution or company,” explains the website. “Unclaimed money received by ASIC is transferred to the Commonwealth of Australia Consolidated Revenue Fund. It is available to be claimed at any time by the rightful owner and there is no time limit on claims.”

To find if any of that lost money belongs to you visit this page and simply enter your name. If you find some money the website also provides information on how to claim depending on the type of lost money.

You may also have unpaid wages. You can search for this at the Fair Work Ombudsman website.

Finally, state governments hold unclaimed money from deceased estates, share dividends, salaries and wages, cheques, trust money, over-payments and proceeds of sale, according to MoneySmart. See the table below for the relevant contact details.

5. Track down any lost super

Something else that can get “lost” is superannuation. Usually this happens if you have changed jobs or moved house and forgotten to notify your super fund. According to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) as at 30 June 2019, there was $20.8 billion in lost and unclaimed super across Australia. The simplest way to find out if you have any lost super is using your myGov account and linking it to the ATO. It will show you details of all your current super funds including any “lost” ones.

6. Get your financial affairs in order

Consider using this time to get things in order. Set up an important information file and include details such as where all your super is located, information about bank accounts, any insurance you hold – especially life insurance – and where wills are stored.

On the subject of wills – if you don’t have one it’s a good idea to start thinking about getting one organised. Think about who you would like to leave your assets to and who you may want to act as an executor.

It’s also important to remember that your super is treated a little differently and isn’t automatically part of your estate when you die. 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.

7. Complete an online course

Is there something you have always dreamed of doing or learning about? Take a look to see if you can find some sort of online course that you can complete that will teach you new skills. You may be able to use your newly acquired knowledge to start a side hustle or maybe it will help you score a new job or pay rise when things get back to normal. Even if it doesn’t make you any extra money, self-improvement can be fun and valuable


Source: gpointstudio (Shutterstock)

8. Start a veggie garden

This might not be for everyone but think about starting a fruit and veggie garden. Sure you will need to spend some money to get everything you need to set it up but it could save you money down the track because you will no longer have to buy the items you are now growing such as  tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, strawberries or watermelon. And who knows – if your veggie patch is a huge success you might even be able to make money by selling your fruit and veg. Bunnings has some tips on how to start a vegetable garden. And spending some time outside will probably feel good too.

9. Declutter and sell any unwanted items

Another way to make the most of your extra spare time is to go through your cupboards and drawers and find things that you no longer want or need. It might be clothes, books, homewares or even furniture. Consider selling these to make some extra cash. A garage sale is out of the question these days but you may still be able to sell items online and post them out. Or you may opt to keep everything stashed away in the one place to have them ready to sell when it is safer to be in contact with people.

10. Start cooking more

If being time poor has been your reason for not cooking very much this is your opportunity. Admittedly the supermarket shelves have been a little bare of late which makes it hard to do much experimenting but hopefully that will start improving soon. Find some new recipes online, try out your own ideas and if you cook in big batches then freeze a few portions so that you have food ready when it is time to go back to the office.

Main image source: LightField Studios (Shutterstock)

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.


This article was reviewed by Editorial Campaigns Manager Maria Bekiaris before it was published as part of our fact-checking process.


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