Does this sound familiar? You’re flush with funds on payday, only to be living on beans and toast a few days later and wondering where all your money has gone.

If so, you’re not alone. Many Australians find it tough to balance the household budget. In fact, research shows that almost a third of Australian households are surviving from payday to payday, with an increasing number of people reaching out for financial guidance.

At the same time, household debt is skyrocketing, with figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing household debt in Australia has almost doubled in the last 12 years.

And the main culprits aren’t necessarily the big-ticket items. Yes, South Australia has some of the highest power prices in the world, but often it’s the less obvious, or hidden expenses, that households find hard to plug.

So what are they and how do you fix them? Here’s some of the most common offenders.

Water

After electricity, water is the other big-ticket utility expense in your household budget. Even though costs have remained relatively stable in South Australia, it’s easy to rack up large water bills through bad habits or simply not thinking about your water usage.

Solution:

There are many ways to save water inside and outside of your home, from taking shorter showers to planting a drought tolerant garden. The trick is to make the commitment to implementing them.

Insurances

It seems you can purchase insurance for just about anything these days – your home, cars, health, travel, life, trauma, pets and even more obscure things like tyres and rims. There may be very good reasons why you’ve taken up the insurances you have, and in isolation they may not seem like large expenses. But add them all up, and combined, they’re probably draining your household budget.

Solution:

Step one is to review whether you really need all the insurances you have, or whether there are other ways to achieve the peace of mind you’re seeking. Next, shop around for the best deal on the insurances that you deem essential.

Groceries

Aside from rent and mortgage payments, food is the next biggest household expense. The ABS found that 16.6% of Australians’ weekly household expenditure is on food and non-alcoholic beverages. The same research found the average family spent about $1425 a week - $190 more than six years earlier. Based on that figure, the average weekly grocery spend sits at around $230.

Solution:

Planning is the key to cutting down your weekly food spend. Avoid unplanned trips to the shops, and focus on using ingredients that you already have in your fridge and pantry.

Cars/Transport

Transport is the third biggest household expense according to the ABS, and by far the biggest costs are associated with your car(s) – petrol, insurance, servicing, repairs and registration. Other big costs include parking (if you work in densely populated locations). According to Moneysaver, Australians spend $78.4 billion a year on cars compared with $2.2 billion a year on public transport.

Again, in isolation all of these costs may not seem that sizeable, but combined, they equate to a lot of money over twelve months.

Solution:

To save on transport expenses, consider using public transport or riding your bike – you’ll also be doing your bit for the environment. If you’re a two-car household, ask yourself whether you could make-do with one car.

Eating out

It may surprise you, but Australians spend on average $80 a week on eating out, up by almost a third on 2009-10. Of that, Millennials – those under 34 – spend at least $100 each week eating out. That’s about $5200 every year on take-away. If that sounds like you, then there’s plenty of room to tighten the belt.

Solution:

The answer to this one is simple – try to limit eating out/take-away to once a week, and look for special deals to reduce the amount you spend on these occasions.

Internet, pets, TV subscriptions, gifts

There are a multitude of other household expenses that could be draining your household budget, with the first step being to understand what they are, and then working out how to reduce them.

Household items such as Internet plans, mobile phone plans, pet care, pay TV subscriptions, gym memberships and gifts for birthdays and Christmas are all relatively small in isolation, but add up over the long-term. Think carefully about which of them are absolute essentials, and those that you could potentially live without.

Solution:

Step one is to look at what’s essential, and then cutting out the expenses that aren’t.

A good idea is to use a budget calculator to work-out exactly how much you have to spend on each of your weekly expenses. This is also a good way to understand all of the expense you’re responsible for.

It’s not easy, but with some careful research and discipline, you’ll be surprised how much of your hard-earned money you can unlock to put towards your big money goals in life, like a home deposit.

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