Thursday, 17 January 2013

New Years Resolutions

by Rob d'Apice
Did you make a New Years resolution? Prosple did. And it's to save you money.

Its a sad fact that 88% of New Years resolutions fail. So today, we're making it our mission to help you with some of the most common resolutions, so that we can all be a part of the 12%.

1. Eat better

In 2011, Australians spent a whopping $37 Billion on takeaway food. That's about $1700 for every man, woman and child in Australia. Not only is that a lot of dollars, it's probably not the best nutrition.

How can you limit your spend? My solution is online grocery shopping. It's an absolute dream. Skip the queues, the impulse buys, the parking hassles and check out Woolies and Coles online. Search with text for your groceries. Save your list so that next week's shop takes seconds. Then book your delivery for the next day - you can generally specify a 2 or 3 hour window. They even bring your groceries right onto your kitchen bench.

The future is here people. And it's online grocery shopping. Get on it.

2. Quit smoking

Smoking is killing you and your wallet. It's time to quit. A pack a day is now a $6,000 per annum habit - that's a great overseas holiday for 2, or a nice little nest egg.

Quitting is easier said than done, and luckily this author has never had to go through it. Quitnow is a government tool that explains why you should quit. You can call the Quitline 13 7848 for more info. And make sure you hook yourself up with nicotine replacement products (you can buy them on your online shop!)

3. Exercise more

I've heard this resolution all too often. The key is to shake things up - you've had plenty of opportunities to get fit and you haven't, so you need to try something new.

Joining a gym is your first port of call. It doesn't come cheap, though; a gym like Fitness First will set you back $20-$30 a week. Anytime Fitness generally runs a little cheaper and has longer opening hours, but there aren't as many of them. For a cheaper alternative, check out uni gyms; Sydney Uni Sport and Fitness, for example, runs about half the cost of Fitness First and has a pretty decent offering - and you don't need to be a student.

While it can be more expensive, personal training can be a good option to get you back into a fitness routine, costing around $30-$50 per hour. If you don't want to join a gym, classes like pilates or boot camp are another alternative, and generally set you back around $10-$25 per session.

But fitness can be free! Ride a bike, walk your dog, go for a swim or use the outdoor gym equipment at parks. Setting up a home gym can cost less than a year's membership at a gym, and generally last you much much longer.

The important thing is to break the status quo - start something new and get active.

4. Drink less

Australian culture is pretty drink-heavy. According to the ABS, the average Australian spends $31 a week. That's $1600 a year on alcohol. I'll admit it, I'm probably a decent level above that average. Here are some things I've tried to minimise the booze:

  • Substitute every second drink for water, this could halve your drinking spend (saving the average Aussie around $800 every year).
  • Count the drinks you have in one whole week, and try to reduce the amount by a third for the next week.
  • Bring a fixed amount of cash and leave your card at home. That way your sober self can pre-emptively cut-off your drunk (and less financial prudent) self.

5. Save money

This is what Prosple is all about, whether you're Comparing First Home Saver Accounts, or Comparing Credit Cards, we're here to save you cash.

There's an easy way to set yourself up for saving - I call it the 20% Rule. As soon as you get paid, take 20% of your income and put it straight into your savings. I split this amount into 2 accounts - I put half of it into a 'fun' fund with my regular bank, and the other half into an 'out of site' bank account with a different bank for long-term savings. You can compare the best savings accounts on Prosple right now. If you have any major outstanding debts, it would be best to sort them out first - if it's credit card debt, make sure you listen to our Podcast on how to get out of credit card debt quickly!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Q&A: Can I get a Health Care Card?

by Rob d'Apice
I know that Insufficient Funds is aimed at young people but some of the oldies are just as clueless. I am 61, not working. What do we have to do to be eligible for health card?

Thanks so much for tuning into Insufficient Funds (Prosple's weekly podcast filled with money saving tips)! Sorry that a lot of the content is youth-targeted; FBi radio's main demographic is younger. But I'd love to do an episode for the wiser generation!

Regarding your health care card, you should be eligible for a 'Seniors Health Card' when you are at Age Pension age (which for you is probably 65). However, given you are not working, you may be eligible for a 'Low Income Health Care' card - but if you are already receiving superannuation benefits, note that this counts as 'income' in determining whether you are above or below the threshold. Find out more on the Centrelink website.

The third, and main, type of card is simply the 'Health Care Card'. It's automatically awarded when you are receiving an eligible Centrelink allowance - you would probably already know if you were eligible, but you can check out more on the Centrelink website.

Financial management pre-retirement and beyond is substantially more complicated than choosing the right savings accounts. There are many nuances in the regulations (particularly re: superannuation) for making the most of your money. I'd suggest you have a chat with a financial advisor, if you haven't already - as much of the advice needs to be tailored to you.

In any case, I'll make a note to start including more tips for the slightly less young!

Got a question you need answered? Drop me a line at

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas on a Budget

by Rob d'Apice
Christmas is super expensive. Which is somewhat ironic, since Jesus preached frugality and restraint. To be fair, though, Jesus didn't know how great iPads are.

You can do Christmas on a budget, though! You've only got 7 days left, at time of writing, to wrap everything up - that is, if we all make it past the End of the World. So we've prepared some crazy hot tips to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.

Gifts, on a Budget

Our solution? Online. Cheaper products, bigger range and home delivery. Here's our top picks for getting the best of the best.

  • Etsy is an online marketplace supplying an emporium of unique handicrafts, often vintage or handmade. The website is easy to use, allowing you to search goods by location, speak directly to the producer / artist and postage is relatively cheap. 
  • lets you shop in the US without the disappointment of realising the products you want cannot be shipped to Australia. They provide you with a US postal address for shipping, and they'll then forward your products onto you. Plus, if you're an Amex card holder, you can get discounted shipping and premium membership for free! Shipping is also superfast, and generally gets to you in 3-4 days. 
  • Personalised stuff! If you want to give a gift the recipient cannot return - get them a personalised mug. Older relatives love thoughtful gifts and its easy to create a personalised keepsake that won't cost you a fortune. Vistaprint is an online service where you can custom just about everything, to a wall calendar, photo book or iPhone case. If you'd rather go in store most electronic retailers or camera shops now offer a small range of items to personalise. 
  • What to get for the grandparents. Slightly more impressive than a personalised mug, Trove is a digitalised archive of Australian books, images, newspapers and maps dating back to the 19th century. For Christmas last year I went on Trove and got an A3 print of the front page of the newspaper the day each grandparent was born. It was a great gift, not just for the sense of nostalgia but it created interest and conversation with the whole family. 
  • If you want to give a gift that will keep on giving choose Kiva. Kiva is a non-profit organisation that supports and facilitates micro-lending. Focusing its efforts in less developed countries, Kiva is an initiative to provide loans to fund start ups and support small businesses.  On our end the process is simple: make a loan, choose the business to support, get progress updates and once the loan has been repaid you can fund another loan. Give a Kiva Card this christmas, empower a community and provide endless opportunities.

Don't forget to check the websites return policy (located usually at the bottom of a store webpage) in case you need to return an item. If you're worried about what to buy for your hard to please relatives try The Iconic. They have a range of clothes and accessories with free returns for 100 days, saving you stress and hassle, with the added bonus of free overnight shipping for items > $20.

Another option for making Christmas less expensive: Secret Santa! Instead of spending $600 on a bunch of average gifts, why not spend $200 on a good gift that will actually be appreciated and save you all money? Plus, you'll help us manage the huge amount of crap that ends up in landfill post-Christmas season.

Celebrations, on a Budget

Christmas is mostly about getting merry. That means you need a place, some grub, and something to wash it down.
  1. Food. Don't do all the work yourself, ask your guests to bring a plate. This will cost you less, save you time and its a good way to share the effort. If you're looking to save a bit more money look for cheaper cuts of meat, lamb shoulders are a great alternative to the expensive steak or prawn & oysters. Slow cooking can transform your cheap cut into a mouthwatering meal fit for your christmas celebration. Try Aldi and Costco for wholesale prices and bulk buying of groceries.
  2. Drink. Drinks are expensive so it's best to plan ahead. Dan Murphy's can deliver in 2-4 days for free if you spend over $300, otherwise its around $7. You can create a list of drinks to purchase online and arrange to split the costs. If you're having a big shindig, inquire with your local bottle shop to see if you can return unused drinks - a great way to save money. BYO is always an easy and cheaper alternative, your friends brining an assortment of drinks to make the latest cocktail or try a new label of beer or cider.
  3. Venue. If you want to spice up your Christmas celebrations, reduce funds and effort consider a rotating Christmas. That's where you have pre-dinner drinks at one house, entree at another, mains at another, and desserts somewhere else. Only really possible if each venue is in walking distance! 

Post Christmas ...

The big day has come and gone. Presents have been exchanged, food consumed and the bank balance is looking low. Here are some tips for getting you into the New Year. 

  • Recycle unwanted gifts. Why keep the five beach towels you were given? On-gift, exchange or make some money and sell those unwanted gifts on ebay.
  • Got Christmas money? Well done on your newfound moolah! My tip: don't waste it. Put half of it into your long-term savings account, then spend the other half on something nice for yourself. You'll be surprised at how much you can pull together from Grandma's christmas gift each year. If you don't know what the best savings account to choose, you can compare right now on Prosple.

From the team at Prosple, wishing you all a merry, safe Christmas and a happy, prosperous (Prosplerous?) New Year!