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Keep the change! 10 small changes for a big difference to your budget

If you find yourself stumbling over financial obstacles, don’t give up just yet. Dust yourself off, set a new budget, and make some realistic changes to your spending.

Here are our top 10 ways to boost your budget without budging on doing the things you really love.

1. Shopping lists are seat belts for impulse control

There are people who’ve made their entire career engineering the shopping experience to derail you into buying at a whim instead of spending responsibly.

There’s a way to keep those impulses in check though: the good old-fashioned shopping list. Making a list helps you stick to your budget. Ticking off things you need means you can shop with your logic brain and not your lizard brain. You could even consider giving click-and-collect or delivery a try, eliminating any risk of run-ins with purchases you might regret later.

2. Collecting dust? Collect cash instead

We all have that hidden drawer or shelf that contains forgotten relics of yore. You know the one! There are two old smartphones, tacky jewellery you bought while in holiday-mode, and a useless gift from Christmas back in 2018.

Set aside an afternoon and make an inventory, choose an online marketplace and get posting! Motivate yourself to spring clean, and you could clean up in online sales.

Not sure where to list your stuff? There are plenty of online platforms like Depop that are great for racking up sales from an unwanted wardrobe. Those old and broken phones? You can find online businesses that buy them to repair and resell, protecting the environment from e-waste and making you a quick buck. It’s win-win – you’ll gain back space everywhere and fill your back pocket.

3. Forget fast, buy clothes that last

The temptation to buy suspiciously cheap outfits has only become harder to resist in the digital age. That $15 jacket might look great in photos and – if you’re lucky – might actually look nice when it arrives but there's a good chance it’ll end up demonstrating more tear than wear. 

Fast fashion manufacturers are notorious for cutting corners to cheaply produce trendy threads that are just hanging on by one.

Start shopping with this mantra in mind: Quality over quantity. A poor quality, cheap pair of jeans might end up costing you more than a high quality but pricier pair. Buying the nicer jeans means you’ll most likely get far more mileage out of them before suffering a blowout. Don’t get caught unaware in underwear – spend smarter upfront.

4. Re-evaluate how you caffeinate

The professional bean-counters over at ASIC had a few extra cups and worked out Aussies spend around $1.6 billion a year on coffee and tea. A fortune sipped away.

That second midday latte might only be $5 – but how many quick fixes happen over your week? Do you succumb to that ham and cheese croissant at the counter? Getting a grip on your café cravings could boost your savings more than you think.

You don’t need to break up with your barista, just limit your coffee trips and take advantage of any loyalty cards or discounts for bringing a reusable cup.

That said, if you’re working from home more these days, consider investing in an espresso machine. It’ll cost a bit upfront but if you divide the cost (adding a bit extra for coffee beans) by how much you spend at cafes weekly you can estimate how many weeks it’ll take for it to pay for itself. Double bonus: no more waiting in lines – just rise and grind.

5. Wine and dine while saving a dime

How good would it be if saving helped your social life instead of restricting it? Well, it can!

Budgeting doesn’t have to be bland. Why not stock up on some nice wine (Virgin wines can help there), prepare some delicious food, and pencil in a regular date night with your partner or a close friend.

Besides getting to enjoy a nice drop over a meal together, you can set the mood by committing to, and reviewing, your budget together. Hey – saving can be sexy too.

No matter what approach you choose to better your budget, the important thing is establishing a ritual where you’re forced to focus on your spending, evaluating your saving progress and chatting about whether you actually need 5 different ongoing streaming subscriptions – with wine (because wine?).

6. Take the wheel on your nights out

Once again, you don’t always have to sacrifice fun for funds. Friends going out to a gig or hitting the clubs? Before you weigh up whether your liver and wallet can withstand the blunt force of a bar, surprise your friends by offering to be designated driver for the night. Lose the booze, keep the groove.

It’s not just eye-boggling bar tabs that can drain you dry – ridesharing rate surges on busy nights take a toll when getting to and from the venue.

By offering your mates a ride, you can stay true to your saving goals without falling into a FOMO-slump watching social posts from the couch. Maybe your crew will even pay it forward next time you need a lift.

7. Hooked on the apps? Cook by the batch

You’ve had a long day at work. You just want to nosh out on the couch, not sweat over a frypan. Look, you’re not alone. Tapping your phone and watching a pizza appear is a tempting prospect if your fridge is mostly occupied by half-full sauce jars and wilted lettuce that you can’t even remember buying. Meal-prep is the app killer.

Like most things that save you money, being prepared is the secret ingredient. Instead of shopping meal-to-meal, pick a quick and delicious recipe that you can whip up in bulk on a Sunday afternoon. Pasta, curry, a nice salad, roasted veggies, duck confit– you do you.

No more choice paralysis while you scroll an endless list of expensive junk food. Just head to the fridge, bin the depressed lettuce, and grab a meal-prep container of tasty home-cooked grub to quickly zap in the microwave. Bon Appetit.

8. Find the trends in how you spend

If your income seems to be more of an ‘out-go’ a week after you’re paid, it won’t help to just chalk it up as one of life’s great mysteries. Set aside an hour, pull up your transaction list from the last month and inspect each one. Go further back for an even better understanding of your salary-suckers.

Start a spreadsheet and put in your income and your essential expenses – bills, mortgage/rent, transport etc. Look for any ongoing payments for services you barely use anymore.

Look at where you spend during the week. Find the quick-wins and areas you can tighten the belt. Hey, you just set a budget – bring it along to your next wine date!

Don’t love spreadsheets? There are plenty of tools and apps that can help. If you have a Virgin Money Go account you can use the Spend Tracker feature in the Virgin Money app. Just tag your transactions, set a budget and Spend Tracker will do the work for you!

9. Power is money, money is power

Electric shocks don’t just happen because of bad wiring, it can happen when your bill arrives. With cost of living surging the world over, trying to reduce utility usage is a sure-fire way to soothe bill sting. Plus, it’ll shrink the shoe size of your carbon footprint.

This goes without saying but – turn off any electronics when you’re not using them or heading out. Limit how often you use aircons or heaters. Hang up your clothes instead of using a dryer. There are plenty of ways you can reduce your power bill at the flick of a few switches.

You could even get a smart energy monitor installed. These devices typically allow you to track current and historical energy usage, so you can monitor your power, identify if certain appliances are causing a noticeable spike and see if you're wasting power when you’re not home. Some energy providers and state governments offer them installed for free, so it’s worth checking if you’re entitled for one.

10. Boost your savings with Virgin Money

If your bank account isn’t pulling its weight, get a red-hot saving advantage with Virgin Money. Our Virgin Money Grow and Boost accounts are designed to give you complete control over how you use your money and help track your spending.

Hot tip: Check out our Virgin Money Go account bundled with a Virgin Money Boost Saver, offering a high interest reward rate. You’ve worked hard to save extra, now make those savings work hard for you!

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