AS the cost of non essential products continues to rise, it has become important for the consumer to shop smart and save wherever possible.
It must always be remembered that you can only spend a dollar once, so we need to get the most bang for our buck.The consumers association Choice maintains that saving money is just about common sense and has drawn up a list of suggestions to implement.
The suggestions include shopping around for the best price on goods, bargaining for better deals and investing in your own home.
Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn admits most of the ideas seem simple but he believes people need a reminder of what they should be doing to save money.
"We have to remind ourselves all the time that shopping around is common sense,'' he says.
"We are all told we are busy these days but we can save significant funds if we put 10 or 15 minutes of our time into looking for savings.''
Some of those savings include:
- Do some of your supermarket shopping at Aldi. A Choice mystery shadow shopper bought 33 items for $55.70 compared with $100.34 in one of the major supermarkets.
- Shop around for comprehensive car insurance, especially if your car is used by a young driver. Choice found savings of up to $2230 for a young driver, $315 for an adult driver and $340 for an elderly driver. Check for cheaper prices for compulsory third-party prices too.
- Challenge your phone company to offer you a better deal and check rivals to see how they compare. Bundling phone, mobile and internet services can save money. Choice found savings of $100 in five months with one Phone Company.
- A slow cooker can make it cheaper to cook at home, and a bread maker can save money. Choice says a white bread loaf costs $1.71 to make compared to $3.29 in a shop. A loaf baked every other day can save you $100 over four months.
- Negotiate with banks on any fees or charges you incur for any penalties. Banks have the option to refund them.
- Buy fuel on the cheaper days - usually Tuesday - and use websites such as MotorMouth to monitor prices. Based on last week's average prices for unleaded petrol in Brisbane a 60-litre tank cost $81.42 on the cheapest day, a saving of $7.86 compared with buying on the most expensive day.
- Buy clothes in factory outlets and look for bargains. Choice saved $160 on a men's jacket from Rodd & Gunn and $173 on a women's jacket from Jigsaw.
- An average home costs about $1000 to insulate but can help reduce your heating and air conditioning bills by between 20 and 40 per cent. Turning your heater down by 1C can cut 10 per cent off bills.
- Opting to use GreenPower at home can cost you slightly more on your electricity bill, but there are many companies competing for your business so shopping around can give you the cheapest way of helping to save the planet.
- Switch off electrical appliances instead of leaving them on standby. All those little glowing lights on TVs, DVD players, computers and game consoles can cost about $112.50 a year.
Some of Choice's suggestions will challenge those who like to shop with a conscience.
Choice experts found expensive organic and free range chickens did not taste any better than a "standard battery-farmed chook''.
"I know it's a question of taste but what you can do at least is to compare prices and make sure you are buying fresh goods,'' Mr Zinn says.
Some of the suggestions also include an initial investment, such as improved insulation at home, or buying a bread maker. "You need to make an investment to make savings,'' he says. "But the pay-back period is not that long.''