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9 expensive habits you should break to save money

The everyday things you do that are really costing you.

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Last updated: 22 June 2022
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Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Lettuce is the latest luxury item, numbers at the petrol pump are climbing alarmingly fast, and higher-than-average bills are landing in our inboxes. 

Costs are creeping higher everywhere, so what are some real changes you can make to your everyday habits that will really make a difference to your budget? 

From missing out on cheaper deals to wasting cash on your home heating and at the supermarket checkout, CHOICE experts share a round-up of the most expensive habits you should break to make real savings.

1. Shopping on auto-pilot 

Are you an 'in and out' type of shopper who rushes through the supermarket grabbing what you need, always sticking to the same staples? It's a common habit, but it's likely costing you at the checkout.

Taking a bit of time doing your groceries to check unit pricing (which helps you compare prices on similar products to see which are cheaper), looking for products on special and buying seasonally can all help you make significant savings. 

Find out how comparing unit pricing can help you save, and how some smart budget-friendly grocery swaps can ease the pressure of food costs.

Time to try supermarket own-brands?

CHOICE expert taste tests show that cheaper supermarket own-brand products often outperform more expensive branded products in our reviews, so it might be time to ditch your brand loyalty and try a cheaper alternative (or start splitting your shop between supermarkets based on what is cheaper where). 

Not sure which products to switch? Find out how own-brand supermarket products stack up in our taste tests.

2. Being afraid to haggle

While you won't get far bargaining over the cost of a loaf of a bread, our in-house shoppers say you can get serious discounts on large appliances and other household goods simply by, well, asking.

When we were buying mattresses for our latest review, we negotiated a cheaper price on a mattress more often than not, in one case knocking almost half off the recommended retail price. And when haggling over the prices of pillows we test, we were able to secure discounts of up to 60%. 

When haggling over the prices of pillows we test, we were able to secure discounts of up to 60%

Haggling is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone (read our tips on how to haggle), but don't be shy to ask "Is that the best price you can do on this?" and then go from there. Try it with everything from your car insurance to your monthly subscriptions. 

3. Making heating mistakes

Every time you turn the heating on it's costing you cash, so it makes sense to try to keep all that heat you're paying for inside the house. 

CHOICE heating expert Chris Barnes says, "Up to 40% of heating energy can be lost through your windows and the roof, so having a poorly insulated house and windows without curtains or blinds will make your home colder and mean you're paying more to get warmer."

Many of us are guilty of leaving internal doors open, not layering the floors with rugs, not fixing draughts, or blocking heaters with things such as clothes racks filled with washing. But all these habits are making our homes colder and pushing up heating costs. 

Running costs can vary hugely between models and a heater that costs less upfront might end up costing you more in the long run

Chris also advises that the traditional methods of keeping warm are often the best, and certainly the cheapest. "Instead of switching the heater on, put on some woolly socks and a jumper," he says.

And if you're buying a new heater, don't just go for the cheapest option. Running costs can vary hugely between models and a heater that costs less upfront might end up costing you more in the long run. Check out what our experts say is the cheapest way to heat your home this winter.

4. Buying takeaway coffee every day

Due to a global shortage of coffee along with other pressures such as rising transport costs, the price of coffee is going up and businesses have started to pass the hike onto customers. 

Your daily coffee is more expensive now than it's ever been, so if you're looking to cut costs, this is a great place to start.

Our experts have crunched the numbers and found that if you buy your own manual espresso machine and make your coffee at home instead of buying it at a cafe, you could save about $2000 a year.

5. Buying unnecessary laundry products

Fabric softeners and laundry beads, we're looking at you. Not only are these products expensive, they're adding unnecessary chemicals and icky artificial scents to your clothing. Plus, they're bad for the environment. Just think how much plastic packaging you'd save if you ditched them. 

We recently reviewed the Comfort In-Wash Scented Booster Beads that cost a whopping $60 per kg! Cutting these expensive, unnecessary products from your laundry routine is a great move for your pocket and the planet.

Most of the energy used in washing goes to heating the wash water

Speaking of laundry routine, it's cheaper to wash one full load than two half loads, so fill your washing machine right up before you run it. Check out our detergent reviews and switch to one that's cheaper than what you use now but performs just as well, and remember you can get a great wash from a third or as little as a quarter of the recommended detergent dose. 

Also, most of the energy used in washing goes to heating the wash water, so switch to a cold wash cycle to save – especially if you have a thirsty top loader.

6. Sticking with your current energy supplier

If you haven't changed utility providers for 12 months or more, now is a great time to shop around for a better deal. 

Most Australians count electricity bills among their main concerns when it comes to expenses, which is not surprising considering that electricity costs have rocketed at times over the past decade. 

Start by asking your current provider if there are any discounts or better deals available to you and then start researching what else is on offer. Find out more about how to shop around for a better energy deal.

7. Paying for health insurance extras you don't use

While you're at it, review the deal you're getting from your health insurance provider. 

And unless you make a lot of visits to the dentist, physio and optometrist, it may be worth ditching your extras insurance or shopping around for a better deal. 

Many people don't realise that you can hold hospital insurance and extras insurance with different providers, so you can find the best deal that suits you.

8. Leaving meal planning to the last minute

We've all been there. You've had a busy day and there's nothing in the fridge and mouths need to be fed. These are the times when necessity means you call for a takeaway or pack everyone in the car and head to the local restaurant or pub for dinner. 

A bit of meal planning for the week ahead and stocking your freezer with meals that can go straight in the oven or microwave will mean you can avoid those extra costs. 

9. Paying for streaming services you don't watch

If everyone in the household has their favourite must-watch shows, you may find yourself paying for multiple streaming services. But are you watching all of them, or are there any you're paying for that you've forgotten about? 

Compare prices of some of the most popular streaming services below, or add up what you could be paying per month. See if you can save money by downgrading or cancelling any you don't need. 

Some streaming services such as Disney Plus, Amazon Prime, Britbox and Paramount+ offer discounts if you pay for a full year. 

  • Netflix: $10.99 per month (basic plan)
  • Stan: $10 per month (basic plan)
  • Disney Plus: $11.19 per month or $119.99 per year
  • Binge: $10 per month (basic plan)
  • Amazon Prime Video: $6.99 per month or $59 per year
  • Apple TV: $7.99 per month
  • Kayo Sports: $25 per month (lowest tier)
  • Foxtel Now: $25 per month (lowest tier)
  • Paramount+: $8.99 per month or $89.99 per year 
  • Britbox:  $8.99 each month or $89.99 per year
  • Hayu: $6.99 per month, $33.99 for 6 months or $61.99 per year.

We compare streaming services and their features, including how easy it is to search for specific content and discover new shows and movies, in our TV and movie streaming services review.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.