Finance-tips

Simple Ways To Reduce Heating And Cooling Costs

If you’re tired of paying massive sums of money for heating and cooling costs  you’ve come to the right place. I’ve tried and tested these simple techniques and they really work. As an example last quarter we literally saved a couple of hundred dollars on our usual $500 plus electricity bill. It wasn’t difficult and anyone can do it.

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Shop around for service providers

One way I managed to save was by doing a bit of homework and swapping our utility retailer. Some online companies can do this for you but it’s probably best if you make comparisons yourself. Check daily service charges, peak and off peak times and rates plus fees and charges and any discounts which apply.

Many retailers offer discounts for customers who pay on time. These can be good for people who like to pay fortnightly or weekly to reduce their total bill but if you primarily look for these type of deals you could be missing out. Some companies tariffs are lower than the discounted rate anyway so check the actual figures. I was a bit hesitant to swap initially because I was used to getting the pay on time discount, however when I had a look at the costs it worked out less overall.

Don’t be too concerned if you’re in a contract either. Most gas and electrical contracts are easy to get out of and the cost of swapping is still going to save you in the long run.  Just be aware that the swap won’t go through immediately and it can take several months to take affect. Generally retailers need to wait until the next billing cycle before they hand over supply to another company. It’s just a matter of contacting a new retailer, signing up and they basically do the rest.

Window dressings

Exposed glass can significantly add to heating and cooling costs. In warmer weather glass heats up as the sun beats down upon it. Luckily, a lot of people know to leave their homes shut up in summer to reduce the heat entering their homes. However, many neglect to realise when it’s cold outside they should do the same thing. The warmth generated by heating within a home rapidly escapes though the glass and this adds to the cost of temperature control.

An easy way to reduce the cost is by shutting window dressings to trap the heat within during winter and to repel it in summer. Heavily backed curtains are probably the most effective option. Other dressings like blinds or venetians are better than nothing but are no way near as effective.

Another excellent option is window tinting. This stuff is awesome. It reduces glare, adds privacy, has see through and decorative options, protects the glass from breakage and successfully saves money on temperature control. Adding this layer to glass windows makes it harder for heat to escape in winter and penetrate in summer. Plus it’s not as expensive as you might think. Even people who rent can add this without permanently altering a property.

You can buy it in bulk and apply it to each window in the home, have it installed professionally or just purchase enough for problem windows which receive the most exposure. Some tinting products are very easy to apply and remove. It’s just a matter of cleaning the glass, spray it with a bit of soapy water, position it and cut it to size. Violã! It’s that easy.

Using fans to assist with circulation

Using fans costs a fraction of the price of air-conditioners. I’m talking pocket change instead of folded notes! One really nifty tip is to use a combination of fans and the air-conditioning. Even though you have two appliances running it will save you a small fortune if you set the air-con to a higher or lower temperature than required and use the fan.

For example in summer instead of setting the air-con to 22 set it to 23 and use a fan or two to circulate the air. This cools the air and assists the air-con to reach it’s desired temperature faster. It’s been claimed that for each degree difference you can save 10 percent on running costs. Therefore if you set the air-con to 25 instead of 22 you can save a whopping 30 percent. The same applies to setting temperatures in winter. I did this during summer and we saved about $250 on our regular summer electricity bill and temperature wise we didn’t feel the difference.

Nine fast tips

  • Most of these are tips are common sense and if you watch your heating and cooling usage you will notice the savings. Seriously why spend more on utility bills than you have to? Wouldn’t you rather go on a short holiday every year with the savings? I know I would!
  • Avoid heating and cooling unused spaces
  • Gas is cheaper to run than electricity so if you have an option chose the gas rather than use an electrical appliance
  • Avoid using high wattage appliances like small fan heaters unless you need to
  • In winter if you have a heater which uses wood, try and source wood for free. Network, check online for give-away wood and don’t be afraid of a bit of hard work to collect it. This will save a fortune!
  • Instead of heating bedrooms before bedtime, use an electric blanket. Flick it on half an hour prior and you’ll be toasty warm in seconds
  • If you use ducting shut off ducts to areas not in use. Close the vents or board them up more permanently if they aren’t necessary
  • Dress appropriately. Rather than wearing t-shirts around the home in winter and turn on the heating, wear more clothing. If your watching TV or on the computer use blankets instead of turning on the heat if you can avoid it. The same applies in summer. If you dress for the weather conditions this will save you money
  • If you’re home alone, you really only need to warm or cool yourself not the entire space
  • Instead of using heating or cooling appliances day and night only use them when you really need to. Many of us are very used to flicking on the air-con when really we’d be just as comfortable opening the windows or putting on a jumper. This is not only good for your finances but also saves the environment from all those nasties generated by using temperature control appliances

If anyone has anymore useful tips on saving on heating and cooling costs we’d love to here from you.

Image treedoctors.ca

May 25, 2015

The One Idea Turning Real Estate On Its Head

Every so often a story hits my email and I think, yeah that’s interesting. When I got this story though, it blew…my…mind! There in front of me, lurking behind the product promo was a real life David and Goliath battle of Biblical proportions. I was engrossed from that moment. I organised an interview and got stuck into some very intriguing reading.

So what was it that captured my attention? Well it’s the remarkable tale of Andrew Blachut and a business he and his family created called Property Now. Recognising a flaw in the centuries-old real estate industry, Andrew wanted to correct it. Pretty simple, really.

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However, we all know that shaking up an old way of doing things is never easy. Particularly when billions of dollars are at stake and people’s livelihoods are in question. What looked simple in theory has morphed into an epic journey and, according to Andrew, it’s not going to let up anytime soon. “Vested interests… won’t take it lying down. They will destroy or assimilate the concept.” So what’s Andrew done that seems to has gotten these vested interests so riled up?

Once upon a time, a battle was born…

Property Now, Andrew Blachut, agent assiated private sale, Australian real-estateLet’s start at the beginning. Andrew was a real-estate agent. He begins: “After supposedly selling over 300 homes traditionally I had an epiphany and realised I had not sold any of those. Houses sell themselves and as an agent I had just been a handy marketing conduit.”

When I asked him about his idea he went on to say, “I like finding something that’s deeply entrenched and asking WHY? Can this be done better or differently?” So that’s essentially how Andrew Blachut went from a real estate agent to his current occupation as an “entrepreneur and consumer improver (real estate at present)”. Quite a mouthful, but this is quite a story!

Wondering why Andrew would want to shake up a lucrative industry particularly as it was his bread and butter, Andrew honestly revealed “Simply that the vast commission [received by agents] cant’ be vindicated. As a friend once told me ‘a solicitor and an accountant need years of training. A person can become an agent in a week, literally. Houses sell houses. Whoever is involved will get the credit’.”

Andrew acknowledged that credit involves massive sums of money. All of which the Australian real estate industry are determined to keep. Property owners have been handing their hard earned cash to real estate agents for over a century. They don’t want it to change. Why would they?

For over a century, real estate agents have instilled fear in Australian property owners. They explain that their expertise is essential to rent out or sell properties and get the best price. It’s sales, just like selling anything else.

This is the message Andrew wants out. I’m pretty certain the industry as it stands would just love the ground to come up and swallow him whole! They tried to make his concept and business disappear but Andrew, the underdog, has had a few wins up his sleeve and motivated to keep going. He wants us to question if real estate agents are worthy of the commissions they attract. He knows first hand that any property owner who wants to rent or sell can do it and end up with just as much in their pocket, if not more. It’s a lot like selling a car.

Yes there’s paper work involved but accountants can handle all that at a fraction of traditional selling costs. Owners effectively advertise, run inspections and take offers. That’s an agent’s role and is it worthy of thousands of dollars? Andrew doesn’t think so and many property owners are beginning to agree. His business has thousands of satisfied clients.

Andrew had to come up with a new way of private selling and renting. Marketing was the key. How could he get private owners onto those exclusive agent websites?

That’s when the agent-assisted sales method was born. It’s essentially where private owners sell or rent their properties, but get the basics from an agent. They access vital agent exclusive websites get advice, signage and what ever else they need. At $550 to sell a home or $150 to rent out an investment property it sounds like a massive saving to me.

This is the primary reason Andrew and the “mistress of the keyboard”, his supportive wife Joanna, began Property Now and just as importantly, haven’t given up. Andrew acknowledged, “I absolutely knew there would be conflict [when they began] because billions of consumer dollars and people’s careers were at stake”. I don’t believe however they could have anticipated the amount of conflict!

Andrew recalls the future of their business and the concept of agent-assisted sales “completely hinged on an ACCC [Australian Consumer and Competition Commission] intervention at the eleventh hour. During 2010, realestate.com.au put in writing our account closure (which would have killed our business). It did this due to agent pressure. The ACCC, which initially said we had no cause/grounds, intervened and realestate.com.au backed off.”

Property Now, Andrew Blachut, agent assiated private sale, Australian real-estate

Faced with consistent challenges – including reports to Fair Trading, vital internet marketing account closures, massively inflated advertising rates, internet search engine hacks and even client harassment – Andrew, Joanna and “CEO in waiting”, daughter Coreyna have had to sustain far more than most family businesses could cope with.

When I questioned Andrew about the sacrifices to keep going he offered:

 “We lost a great deal of time, money and especially business momentum. While we experimented, fought and refined things a new player arrived who had few scruples and to whom making a fast buck was more important that creating and stabilizing an emerging industry.”

When I asked if he’d ever a though about giving up, Andrew confessed, “Absolutely everyday for 10 years.” Thankfully, they didn’t.

“I felt the cause was both valid and a natural evolution in the industry.” Andrew went on to provide further motivation. “Also I was desperate in not wanting to be forced back into traditional commission-based selling.”

Andrew is so passionate about his new agent-assisted sales method and giving property owners the opportunity to sell or rent their homes that he has recently written a book detailing exactly how it’s done. I’m a bit jealous. It only took him a month! That’s because he has everything he needed at his fingers tips. He listed to what people wanted and needed and simply supplied it. His book is called Get More For Your Home and it invites property owners to do just that. It’s a great read and Andrew’s battle and personality shine through. I’m not selling a home but I really enjoyed it.

So if you’re interested in how it works and more information about the battle raging on behind one of Australia’s most profitable industries, head to the Property Now website. Here’s a link to their price guide with no hidden extras and all costs quoted upfront. Plus they offer free advice to their clients. It’s truly a breath of fresh air in an industry which has been based on illusion for far too long!

Images propertynow.com.au, clipartlord.com

March 22, 2015

Given Your Credit Card A Good Workout?

Yep, looks like most of us are in for a heck of a festive season credit card statement again! The Reserve Bank has quoted that we racked up a cool $18 Billion over last year’s festive season and this year is shaping up to top that. They also revealed, $50 billion in credit card debt is being paid off by 15 million Australians. Glad I’m not paying that hefty sum off on my own!

So what are we going to do about it? Let’s get real, we’re probably just going to keep spending, hey. Luckily, there‘s an Aussie company out there, called RateSetter who are the first and only company in our fine land, who provide peer-to-peer leading to everyday Aussies.

These guys actually want to help us by reducing interest rates for festive season spending and have provided some quirky and entertaining financial tips to downsize your debt. Imagine a January credit card statement of zero! Sounds too good to be true, but Ratesetter reckon their financial fitness plan will steer you in the right direction.

‘Weigh yourself’ to assess how financially (un)healthy you are

Take a minute to assess your financial health. Be realistic with yourself to determine the health of your finances. Will your wallet benefit from some fin-tervention? Often, the first step to financial recovery is acknowledging the state of your debts.

Trade in your personal trainer for a financial planner

Consulting an independent professional before undertaking a new financial regime is a worthwhile investment in your long-term financial health plan. Get someone to cast an expert eye over the big picture of your financial fitness – including your credit card debt – and you’ll find that you can put their in-depth knowledge and professional skill to work.

Take a finance detox and stay away from ‘junk food’

Whilst it’s called the ‘silly season for a reason, consider detoxing your wallet by cutting out non-essentials like take away food, bottled water and that daily coffee. It’s amazing how much small purchases we all consume, actually mounts up to over a year.

Get finance app friendly

Take advantage of the many free budgeting apps available on smartphones and tablets. These are perfect tools for those who want a little daily assistance to keep on track.

Making sure that ‘hidden calories’ aren’t blowing out your financial diet

Are your interest rates sabotaging you? If you’re struggling to get back in the black, it might be time to review what your credit cards are really doing to your financial diet. Try considering ‘healthier’ alternatives to credit cards, such as a peer-to-peer personal loan where you get to determine your own preferred rate. You can consolidate your credit card debt and pay lower interest rates with a peer-to-peer loans.

Sounds almost achievable hey? So if you want more information on peer-to-peer loans to reduce your festive season debt and to get some home grown, Aussie financial advice check out RateSetter.com.au.

Image via google images

January 6, 2015

Is Money Conflict Ruining Your Marriage?

Do you love a good shopping spree, but dispose of the evidence faster than you can say “CSI”?

“This old thing?” you laugh off to your beloved husband when he compliments you on your brand new summer maxi dress. “I’ve had it for ages!” Erm, guilty as charged! Or, did you have a recent windfall and you’re hiding this in a secret savings bank account from your significant other?
money conflict, money woes, relationship advice, dating tips
Conflict over money is a major cause of marital discord, psychologists say. In fact, study after study of married couples’ relationship habits shows serious financial secrets can in fact lead you on a rocky path to divorce.

Related: How To Cope With Sexually Transmitted Debt

So, what’s the key to happy and harmonious monetary matters with your spouse?

Speaking from personal experience, it’s certainly tricky going from being an independent bachelorette with your own bank account, to sharing a joint bank account with a partner, where your every expenditure is open to scrutiny.

Should couples keep their own independent bank accounts, rather than a joint one? Is that a less stressful option for both parties? There’s no easy answer to this – you have to work out what’s best for you and your partner, relationship psychologists say.

And while I personally still struggle to curb my shopaholic tendencies in my marriage, I’ve certainly learnt to be more mindful of my spending thanks to my husband’s more thrifty ways (luckily for our bank accounts). So, why is it so important for couples to be honest with each other about their personal finances?

“All good relationships are based on trust. If someone is dishonest with their partner about their spending it’s highly likely they will be found out and it will be very difficult to regain the trust, putting the relationship at risk,” says my go-to clinical psychologist source.

“The most likely reason a person may have a desire to hide their spending from their partner is due to something they’re ashamed of, or which their partner would disapprove of, such as gambling, an affair, or spending up big on a personal project that doesn’t benefit the partner.”

And if you’re wondering why monetary conflict is such a “red, hot button” in your marriage, it’s because we as a society closely connect our financial situation to our sense of emotional security.

“Everyone likes to feel that there will be enough money available to them for essentials and emergencies,” says the relationships psych. “So, because of the emotional component involved, arguments are bound to arise if partners have different priorities in how to spend their available funds.

“It’s also likely that strong emotions such as fear, anger and anxiety will continually crop up if it seems there won’t be enough money for what each person perceives as important.”

So, should I stop hiding my new clothing price tags in an effort to be more honest and open about my summer maxi dress obsession with my husband? Shhh, don’t ask, don’t tell…

Images via www.pixabay.com.

What do you think? 

October 8, 2014

5 Tips to Help First Home Buyers Buy Property with Confidence

With interest rates sitting at historical lows, and lenders proving they are hungry for business, now may be a great time to consider your property options.

Of course buying property, particularly if it’s your first, can be a daunting prospect. According to a recent survey by Mortgage Choice*, four out of five future first homebuyers do not feel well informed about the property purchase process.

Purchasing property can be a complex process but, provided you set achievable goals, do your due diligence and seek professional advice, home ownership can be a rather fulfilling and enjoyable experience.

Mortgage Choice spokesperson Jessica Darnbrough offers a few tips to help first home buyers feel more confident about getting into the property market and achieving their goal of home ownership sooner rather than later.

1. Find out if you are eligible for government grants or concessions
For example, the First Home Owner Grant is a national scheme funded by the Federal Government that can help first time buyers get onto the property ladder sooner. The amount available varies by state and ranges from $5,000 up to $25,000 for first home buyers towards the purchase of their first home.

2. Consider Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI)
As a borrower, if you do not have a deposit of at least 20%, you can be forced to pay LMI. This insures your lender, protecting them against any loss incurred if you default on your loan. While LMI does not protect you as the borrower, it can potentially help you purchase property sooner if you have a smaller deposit. However, it is important to weigh up your options carefully and consider whether or not it is right to pay LMI and jump in now, or hold off, watch the property market and save a larger deposit.

3. Buying with others
If you’re struggling to put aside enough money each month to save a deposit for your first home, you could consider pooling your money with others, be it a partner, friend or family member. Combining your funds will not only give you a bigger deposit, it may also increase your borrowing power and help you secure a home loan that meets your needs.

Of course, if you decide to go down the path of co-ownership, it’s important to seek legal counsel as this will help you to address all the important issues upfront, such as what would happen if one person sold their share or defaulted on their mortgage.

4. Let your mortgage broker do the legwork
Choosing the right home loan is an extremely important part of the home buying process. At no cost to you, a broker can walk you through the mortgage minefield and help you find the right home loan for your needs – often saving you a great deal of time and money.

5. Get ahead with pre-approval
Before hitting the pavement in search of your new home, consider getting pre-approval. This will give you a good idea of your borrowing capacity and save you from looking at properties that aren’t in your price range. Contact your local mortgage broker to obtain home loan pre-approval.

If you want to learn more about your home loan options, visit www.mortgagechoice.com.au

Are you thinking of buying property in 2014?

October 17, 2013