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Budgeting & saving

Frugal February – how much could you save?

01 February 2018

Money & Life team

Money & Life contributors draw on their diverse range of experience to present you with insights and guidance that will help you manage your financial wellbeing, achieve your lifestyle goals and plan for your financial future.

It’s the shortest month of the year so what better time to make a change and save some money? We’ve got three tips for each of the next four weeks to help those dollars pile up in Frugal February.

Week 1 – the same lifestyle for less

In week one, we’re easing you into the swing of saving with some financial habits to get you in a new financial frame of mind without giving up anything – yet…

  1. Cash only – starting now, stash your credit card in a safe place and use only cash for all your purchases. Tap and go is quick and easy but it also tends to make us more blasé about our budget. When you find yourself hitting the ATM twice in one weekend for shopping and entertainment, you’re more likely to watch what you’re spending.
  2. $50 fun – think of at least four activities you can do – on your own or with friends and family, that cost $50 or less. It could be a low-cost gardening project, heading off on a hike or paying for a group lesson to learn something new. Just remember to include snacks or food in your plans and costing – a café pitstop or takeaway could quickly blow your $50 budget.
  3. Swap and save – beauty, books, clothes, appliances, if it’s something you spend on, try swapping instead. Clothes are the most obvious, but if you and your friends have a weakness for cookbooks or games, try organising a big swap party to grow your collection.

Week 2 – be food wise (and fuel your bank balance too)

Take some time this week to put the spotlight on how you eat and save money along the way.

  1. Lose the lattes (long blacks, flat whites and macchiatos too) – however you drink it, takeaway coffee is a daily indulgence that can add up to a big annual spend of $1522 per year according to 2016 research from Skip, a food and drink ordering app[1]. Think about that figure when you’re deciding if a daily coffee is something you could do without.
  2. Pack your lunch – according to ING Direct’s Cost of Going to Work report[2], the average cost of paying for lunches at work is $129 per month. That’s an annual cost of $1548, roughly the same as that daily coffee bill. By brown bagging your lunch and forgoing your coffee, you could be $3k better off this time next year.
  3. Purge the pantry (and the fridge) – a lot of households keep enough stuff in the cupboards and fridge to last for weeks, perhaps months. How much could you save simply by living off what you already have instead of shopping for groceries this week?

Week 3 – entertainment thats lighter on your pocket

  1. Dine at home – the average Aussie is spending $80 a week dining out according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics household spending survey[3]. So you could stand to be saving more than $4k this year by making a meal of your home cooking for your family and friends.
  2. High and dry – with an average weekly spend of $124.45 according to savings app Pocketbook[4], it’s no wonder giving up alcohol is a popular challenge taken up for Febfast. You can pocket the $500+ you’re likely to save or donate it. Either way you’re going to be feeling better during a month without drinking.
  3. Give uber the elbow – whether you’re staying sober, staying home or both, there’s really no need for you to be using Ubers this month. Delete the app from your phone so you’ll be less tempted to use it when you’re in a rush to get home and start cooking!

Week 4 – big expenses, even bigger savings

  1. Pay less for your mobile/electricity/insurance – if you’ve been with the same provider for a while, for any of these services, there’s a good chance that shopping around for a new deal can save you a significant amount across the year.
  2. Holiday for free – House sitting or swapping are both good ways to enjoy a getaway without shelling out for a hotel room. If you don’t have a home that’s Air BnB ready or appealing to swappers, get on to websites like for housesitting opportunities in Australia.
  3. Ditch your debt – whether it’s taking a year or two off the mortgage or saying goodbye to credit card balances, make this your month to find smarter ways of living with your liabilities. The amount you’ll save on the overall cost of borrowing can be substantial when you take steps to pay loans off faster.

Looking for more ways to save? Get tips to save on your three biggest expenses and discover 7 budgeting apps to help you save in 2018.

[1] Sydney Morning Herald, Would you pay $5 for a cup of coffee?, Tony Featherstone, July 6, 2017, “Australians who order a medium takeaway coffee each day spend $1522 a year on their habit, found 2016 research from Skip (a food and drink ordering App).”

[2] ING Direct Media Release, The cost of 9am – 5pm; Australians spend a whopping $39 billion a year being work – ready, 20 January 2017, “The ING DIRECT ‘ Cost of Going to Work ’ report found employees spend the most travelling to and from the workplace , fork ing out an average of $179 per month on transport costs . This is followed by the amount workers spend on lunch at $ 129 per month.”

[3] The Daily Telegraph, ABS household expenditure survey shows Australians spending more on restaurants and takeaway, Clarissa Bye & Chris Harris, 10 October 2017, “The latest household spending survey, by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, shows the average Australian spends $80 a week dining out, up by nearly a third on the $63 spent in the 2009-10 ­financial year.”

[4] Pocketbook Blog, How Much Does Alcohol Really Cost Australians?, 20 February 2017, “Australian spending on alcohol has remained relatively steady over the past three years. While there has been a slight year-on-year increase, the average monthly spend per person in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 financial years was $113.03, $121.43 and $124.45 respectively.”

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