6 high quality money hacks

By Jessica Sier 15 April 2020 4 min read

Being able to coolly allocate and manage your money takes a firm shift in thinking.

We look to invest in companies who have planned ahead. This sometimes means their initial capital expenditure is high, but the potential for returns on investment in the longer term are ongoing and rich.

We appreciate planning, thoughtfulness and execution. It leaves room for creativity and wonder!

Run yourself like an efficient, sustainable business. It will leave room for creativity and wonder!

1. Don’t buy crap quality.

Take responsibility for your purchases.

Invest your time in proper cleaning, repairing, reusing and sharing your things. Be an owner rather than a consumer.

Consumers take, use, dispose and repeat. This pattern that will eat into their savings in a way carefully considered shopping won’t.

Owners opt for durability and functionality and will ultimately keep more dollars in the bank.

This kind of mentality is likely to spill over into your investment choices too and you’ll end up buying shares in quality, sustainable and long-term growth businesses.

It’s where the world is going.

2. Talk to your friends and family about money.

This will set up a small mental nudge that is likely to help you improve your discipline.

Australians are notoriously awkward about money.

It probably stems from the same reason we sometimes deride and undermine people who are perceived as successful. There might be shame attached to flaunting wealth.

But if you start talking to your friends about your finances, you’ll probably find that everyone is in a similar boat: they find it hard to scratch together savings at the end of every pay cycle but they can afford wine with dinner.

If you open up the chat around savings, it’s likely someone in your group will follow up with you.

Hey, did you end up putting that $500 away?

Hmm, not quite. I’ve only got $300 left.

Yeah, I only managed $200.

Let’s try again next month.

Chances are next month you’ll both be much closer to your goal.

Call it saving face, call it leveraging competitiveness, call it breaking down unhelpful barriers, whatever, talking to your friends about your dosh will help you keep more dollars in your pocket.

3. Shop for better utility deals.

Do some maths.

Susie gets laser every six weeks and it costs her $42 a session.

She’s been pretty good about it over the last 18 months, but every time her local spot offered her the “ten pack for $290” she refused. But she’s easily gone more than ten times, meaning I’ve - I mean, Susie - has easily paid more than $420.

Looking around for value will save you money, even if it might cost a bit more upfront.

This extends to all of your utilities: things like phone bills, electricity and petrol.

You might be shipping an extra $100 out the door every month on your phone bill, a plan you’ve been rolling over every couple of years out of pure lethargy. If you have wifi in your home, your office, your favourite bar, then maybe consider a pre-paid plan.

It’s also worth getting practical if you’d actually like to cut down your utility bills.

Install low-flow shower heads and taps. You can set your thermostat a bit lower in the winter and a bit higher in the summer. Take the time to seal the cracks around your windows and doors.

The trick is though, once you’ve managed to circumvent a whole pile of bills, redirect the money somewhere helpful!

That could be your ski-trip fund, your Prada fund or your Spaceship Voyager fund, don’t just pour it (all) down your throat.

4. Deliberately refocus your attention.

Be a bit skeptical (or a bit clued in) about shops.

Advertisers routinely use environmental and psychological tricks to nudge you into spending. Music, lighting, colour and scent are curated to set your mood and direct you towards picking up and handling the products.

To blunt the urge to buy something you don’t need, take a deep breath the next time you walk into a store and take in your environment. Scan the shelves and signage for clues to how a store might be trying to manipulate your attention.

This is also true of online stores, where one-click purchase buttons and decoy offerings funnel you towards snapping up an intangible bargain. Maybe try and gamify the experience and try to notice all the nudges? That might keep you aware.

Another behaviour that pushes us into buying unnecessary stuff is perceiving good value.

If you see a $50 coat next to a $100 coat, the $50 coat seems like good value. Remember if you actually need a coat!

Alternatively, people often pay attention to the minimum amount due on their credit card rather than the total due.

These are called anchor biases, and in order to free yourself, deliberately refocus your attention. With your credit card, use a highlighter to draw your attention to the total balance, not just the minimum you have to pay.

Here is a post about confirmation bias, if you're interested in understanding other behavioural tricks.

5. Disconnect your card from food delivery apps.

When you keep your card plugged into your app, it’s just too easy to order pizza or salad or curry.

The real hack here is doing a shopping plan and buying ingredients and finally learning to cook. (Who knows, you might find it creative and stimulating).

If you have to manually enter your card details every time, it might nudge you towards what’s already in the fridge.

6. Use cash (or a cash account).

Rather than track your spending, give yourself an allotted daily expenses account.

Divide it up however you like (that might include rent and bills, or it might be everything after your necessities).

The Barefoot Investor calls it Daily Expenses + Splurge, Paul Clitheroe calls it Plain Money and we're calling it...Ordinary Outlay? Whatever.

Just don’t pool your whole pay into the one account and hope that by the end of the month, you’ll have money left over.

Split everything out at the beginning when the money comes in and live on the rest.

It’s a bummer none of these tricks are going to make you a millionaire overnight, but if the wonderful world of behavioural economics teaches us anything, it’s that it’s actually rather simple to push back on the system.

It just takes a bit of clarity.

Words by
Jessica Sier Right Chevron

Jessica Sier is a financial journalist. Prior to that she led content at Spaceship and was a reporter at the AFR where she discovered that breaking down financial jargon was a public good.

6 high quality money hacks