How to get the best deal on unavoidable living expenses

Groceries can be a big hit to family finances, but there are ways to save. Source: News Limited

Money experts David Koch, Lachlan Harris and Sophie Elsworth share the secrets to saving on your home insurance premium.

Groceries can be a big hit to family finances, but there are ways to save. Source: News Limited

DAY-TO-DAY living is expensive, with some big, unavoidable items eating up a chunk of personal finances.

From ongoing outlays on groceries and petrol to one-off purchases like cars and whitegoods, here’s how to get the best deals.

CARS

Property aside, cars are probably the biggest single purchase most people make. And unfortunately it’s a bit of a minefield.

The trick is to be an informed buyer and aware of the timing.

If buying from a dealership, you need to know exactly what your budget is and what it is you want before walking in.

In terms of timing, the end of the financial year is when lots of carmakers have mid-year sales, and there are usually end-of-calendar-year sales to clear out the models before new ones come in.

Remember that car dealers are paid bonuses on reaching monthly targets, so that last week can be a good time to negotiate a deal when they’re racing to fill the quota.

Agreeing to their in-house finance deal means more profit for them so use it as lever for a lower price.

Likewise, avoid locking in to an expensive service plan unless the trade-off is more off the purchase price.

Shop around (don’t forget to look online), get quotes and take competitive quotes to your preferred dealer.

And say no to costly add-ons like paint guard, rust proofing, tinting or increased security. Above all, be prepared to walk away and look at the auction houses for second-hand cars that have low mileage.

WHITEGOODS

From washing machines to microwaves, whitegoods are a big one-off expense that will (hopefully) last a decade or so. Of course, that depends on the quality of the item and how you look after it.

To get the best deal, don’t be afraid to negotiate, offer cash and quote competitors’ prices.

Again, it’s about being well-informed, so use online resources to research models and read customer reviews.

Lots of people wait until a big-ticket item dies before looking for a replacement. This means you might not get the best value. So if your whitegoods are playing up, watch for deals before you get too desperate.

GROCERIES

You don’t need us to tell you that groceries can be a big hit to family finances, but it’s a blow that can be softened.

Buy generic items where possible and stock up on staples if they’re on special or available in bulk. Whether you shop at a big supermarket, local farmers market or boutique grocer, buy produce in season and on sale.

Even better, grow your own vegetables or herbs or start a buying group with friends to purchase in bulk.

When you do hit the shops, take a list and stick to it.

Buy ingredients rather than pre-made meals and don’t shop on an empty stomach.

This is all made easier if you look at what you already have at home and plan weekly meals ahead of time.

PETROL

With recent reports saying cheap Tuesday fuel is a thing of the past, there’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to petrol cycles. The level of the Aussie dollar and global oil prices affect the price we pay, so it can go up and down over the week.

Rather than trying to guess when prices are going to be in your favour, NRMA online has a petrol price search that shows the cheapest fuel in your area.

There’s also Motormouth, a smartphone app that provides a twice-daily snapshot of fuel prices and lets users find the cheapest petrol in their area.

Make minor tweaks to your vehicle (and driving) to help make it more fuel efficient.

Get cars serviced regularly, keep tyres inflated, drive in the right gear and don’t over-rev.

INSURANCE

When it comes to insuring life’s big expenses it’s important to shop around. For car insurance, the type and level of cover is dependent on you and your circumstances.

Compare quotes online, drive an average model, be realistic about mileage and add a second, low-risk driver if possible.

For whitegoods, read the warranty fine print. They’ll usually come under contents insurance so make sure it’s up to date and accurate.

It might also be worth bundling insurances together to get the best value for you.

THE BIG INSURANCE SWITCH

A new campaign, the Big Insurance Switch, launched this month, aims to help you lower your living costs by tackling soaring home insurance premiums.

Research has found that home and contents insurance premiums have been growing at a much faster rate than wages – doubling in 5 years – yet many people take little notice of their policies, what they pay and what is covered. If you’re serious about getting ahead financially, it’s time to cut out the complacency.

You can join the campaign for lower insurance costs here. One Big Switch will negotiate with insurance providers and aims to use readers’ combined weight of numbers to get a good deal.

It’s a free service and you are under no obligation to apply for any deal presented during the campaign.

News Corporation Australia will earn a commission for every person who successfully applies for an insurance policy generated by the campaign, so will One Big Switch.

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