How can I reduce costs of essentials? Living the frugal life

Cara Brett 27 April 2014


There are always ways to save money if you are a bit tight, and back when I had just moved into Brisbane and was living on minimum wage, I had to get pretty creative with how and where I spent my money. Even now, why should you pay more for something if you don’t need to?

I have compiled a list of tips and tricks that I have done that have reduced my spending when times are tight. Some of these are specific to Brisbane but I am sure the same rules apply in any town/city.

Farmers markets are cheaper for fruit and veg, eggs, and some meat. I personally hit up the West End markets on a Saturday, the Powerhouse markets, and the Kelvin Grove markets, but each suburb has their own. It’s also way more exciting than visiting a supermarket. A morning at the markets feels like a nice outing, when really all I am doing is my grocery shopping. Winning.

Haggle with big purchases. White goods, jewellery, appliances, home contents insurance and car insurance. Make it a rule that you don’t pay the first price that they give you.

Don’t pay a joining fee with your gym. You will have to be prepared for this as they can be super brutal. I personally bring in the big guns on this one (my husband) to do the negotiating for me.

Go out for breakfast instead of dinner. I am pretty lucky, I think I live the good life. I have the luxury to go out for a meal at least once a week and it is a pleasure that I enjoy immensely. Dinners can however be a killer when it comes to the bills, but breakfast on the other hand can be done on the cheap and is definitely one of my favourites. Other than the fact that breakfast food is my favourite kind of food, Brisbane has an amazing breakfast culture. Barring Melbourne, I actually think we do it the best. There are so many excellent cafes opening up all around Brisbane. I love nothing more than a long lazy breakfast on a Sunday morning enjoying eggs and usually 1 or 2 cups of coffee. That usually costs about $30 – $40 for both my husband and I.

On the flip side, a dinner out is usually a minimum of $50 and that will not include a glass of wine. If you love going out but don’t have the budget, then indulge in a long breakfast and make your own dinner.

Giving gifts. As much as my husband tells me it isn’t essential, gifts are a necessary expense that we all have, but how much they cost can really be reduced. I find that as I get older I tend to have all the things that I need, and the things that I really really want I either personally save up for, or my lovely husband gets several hints to buy for me throughout the year :). I love getting gifts but they don’t have to cost a lot. I would much prefer someone to rock up with a fresh batch of scones as a birthday present than spend $50 on a token gift. I am sure most people feel the same way.

As a wedding gift, my graphic designer friend, designed all of our invitations and got them printed for us. What a gift! It was perfect, personal and didn’t necessarily cost her a heap of money because she had the skills and the programs already. If I had to pay for this myself it would have cost hundreds. Plus I’ll always remember that wedding gift because it was helpful and personal. Another close friend was the photographer at our wedding, and anyone who has planned a wedding will know how much photographers cost.

So think about what skills you have that could be offered as a gift or what you can make easily that someone would appreciate. Can you offer your handy man abilities for a couple of hours instead of buying a gift? Do you think your loved one would like a homemade batch of cookies or an epic birthday cake? Offer to wash their car or baby sit their kids for a few hours. The options are endless.

Public transport isn’t always cheaper. It is unfortunate that in Australia, and I am talking more specifically Brisbane, public transport is not always the cheapest option. Being about 5kms away from the city, my husband and I usually catch the train to and from work. This equates to $14.40 per day. There are usually some parking deals around meaning you can sometimes nab an early bird parking deal for $10. When it is two of us travelling to the same place, all of a sudden parking becomes more advantageous. This isn’t always the case, but keep an eye out for the early bird deals and you might save some money and have the luxury of pumping up your own tunes in your car on the way to work.

I recently read an article about a woman who decided to turn off all her appliances every night at the power point. I know we have all heard this as something we should do, but let’s be honest, it’s kind of annoying. Evidently however, this woman managed to save $100 on her next electricity bill just by doing this every night (barring the fridge and the phone charger of course). That $100 saving is enough to make me give it a go.

There are so many ways that you can continue to live your life the way that you like to but save money in the process. Please feel free to comment below with any of your suggestions and tips.

– This post is from our resident senior financial planner, Cara Brett. Check out her details in our about us page.

Posted in: Financial PlanningUncategorised and Cara Brett

About the author: Cara Brett

Cara Brett proudly heads up Bounce Financial - founded in 2014 after a successful, decade-long career in the financial services industry. Cara’s experience encompasses both the financial product and financial advice sides. This gives her a comprehensive and holistic knowledge of all facets of financial planning.